[Ed. note: Props to ryebreadraz for this FanPost, some very insightful comments here. Apologies to everyone for not finding and promoting it sooner. Also, some fantastic commentary and analysis in the comments. This is the kind of community contribution that I hope to see more of, as it will make this blog truly great. Keep it up!]
I just got back from tonight's game so I'm going to throw some random thoughts out there, most of which are related to our upcoming first round series. First though, I'd like to thank SilverScreenAndRoll for finally getting us a Lakers blog here on SB Nation. I do some writing over at BruinsNation and was approached about heading up the Lakers blog for SB Nation, but I knew I coudn't do it. There's a major time commitment to running up a blog here and I'd like to thank you ahead of time for all the work you're going to put in here. It is much appreciated.
So about tonight's game:
1) I almost wanted us to lose...almost- I couldn't ever root for us to lose, but I wouldn't have been heartbroken if we had. Of the three potential first round matchups for us, Utah was the one I wanted to see least and tonight's win assured us of playing them. They're a physical team that will beat us up and it's never easy to win at Delta Center (it's still Delta Center to me and Energy Solutions Arena just doesn't sound right). We didn't have too tough a time tonight, but it is hardly an indicator of the upcoming series. Okur will be back, as will Miles, but Boozer still isn't 100% and without him, Williams just has too much riding on his shoulders offensively.
2) Sasha, Fish and Farmar still know how to shoot- Okay so it was only one game and the three had varying degrees of success with their jump shots tonight, but it's progress. All three had a horrid time shooting recently and if the Lakers are to have a chance to hang another banner, someone will have to step up and shoot. Farmar isn't nearly the quality of shooter the other two are and he only hit one jumper tonight so we'll leave him out of this. Fact is, the Lakers are exactly deep when it comes to shooters. Ariza is too streaky, Odom is medocre at best and Luke still needs to find nails and a hammer to keep him on the bench. Sasha and Fish are our only true shooters and both had struggled. Fish didn't look any better in the first half, but he knocked down a couple in the second half and Sasha showed he can still drain it from long distance with a 15 point effort on six of eight shooting, including three of four from long distance.
3) Bynum is still coming around- We're seeing progress with Bynum, but he missed a lot of time and is still trying to find his groove out there. Some guys around me got upset when he didn't finish a couple times tonight and weren't thrilled with his help defense, but it's to be expected. He's in shape, just not game shape and that can only come with more game time. Be patient. His footwork is pretty good as well, but he's a little hesitant and lost some of his feel for the game. That will come, but it's going to take time so again, be patient. Bynum is actually farther ahead then I'd have expected of him and in theory, we shouldn't really need him for a few more weeks so he's got some time to continue to round into form.
4) Our weakside defense needs to improve- Our weakside defense has been porous of late, but it wouldn't be a major issue against most teams. Utah isn't most teams though and if we don't improve on the weakside, they will exploit it because their offense features a lot of backside screens and cuts. We were beat multiple times tonight on the weakside, often on a backdoor screen and cut with the pass along the baseline. Our defensive scheme forces ball handlers to the baseline where the help comes and the weakside zone brings low help on the dive man, but it leaves us vulnerable on the weakside screen. We're going to have to get physical on the cutter off that screen or Utah will burn us.
I have some more thoughts, but I'm rather tired so I'm going to quit here. Those were just my initial thoughts, but with five days to go until our next game, I'll certainly spend some time thinking about our matchup with Utah and will post my "keys to the series" at some point prior to Sunday's playoff opener.