The Starting Five
PJ (that's what I call him) went with a starting lineup of Fisher, Kobe, Walton, Turiaf, and Kwame. Without looking at any stats, I would say that the group was one of LA's best lineups. Fisher played a hell of a game at the PG spot, providing solid D, hitting the big shots, giving Kobe the only offensive help LA could muster, and racking up 4 steals. Fisher finished with 17 points, 2 assists, 1 board. Kobe obviously struggled early, couldn't get his FTs to fall, and tried to do too much (more on this in a bit). Then it became crunch time and Kobe just lit it up. He finished at 41% shooting, scored 45 points, added 8 boards, 4 assists, 4 steals, and a block. Walton did the little things, including a fantastic job of trapping late in the game, added 8-5-4. His man-to-man defense was atrocious. Turiaf only managed 24 minutes because of foul trouble, but his 8 points, 5 boards, 1 block, 1 steal, 1 assist and fantastic effort should be noted. Kwame Brown had just 4 points (on 3 shots), missed all 4 of his FTs, but grabbed 8 boards (4 offensive) and just 1 TO. His man defense on Yao was solid.
The Pine Riders
Outside the starters, the only person who had a respectable performance was Jordan Farmar, who showed flashes later in the game of being a sparkplug and possible floor general. He can learn a ton from Derek Fisher, however, so I like him watching Fish from the bench. Bynum was enigmatic as ever: 4 points, 5 boards, 2 assists, 3 steals, a block are all nice, but his defense was shoddy and he looked lost. I hate to retreat to that criticism, but it's apt here. Still, compared to Evans, Cook, Karl, and Mihm, Bynum was a saint.
What did I like?
LA showed some heart, passion, character, fight, toughness. I loved that. LA never gave up.
What did I dislike?
Rusty performance from Kobe. Too much shooting from him early. Not enough movement from people on the floor. I swear only Kobe, Fisher, and Turiaf know how to move on the floor without the ball. The defense showed massive lapses when the offense sputtered. LA struggled to score without Kobe on the court. This is where LA needs Odom.
I cannot be angry about this loss. I can be angry about the clear foul on Kobe at the end of the game that was not called, but I think that without Odom and with Kobe shooting only 67% on FTs, the Lakers showed that they can hang with one of the teams that is predicted to be a powerhouse. I was pleasantly surprised. And my lord, it's great to have Fisher back.