(I'm playing with the format of Game Threads. Previously, I'd separated the pump up music, which I'm planning to do for all games this season. Let's see how it feels when it's all consolidated. Suggestions welcome...)
Pump Up Music: Wolfmother - "Joker and the Thief"
The Big Picture
The Los Angeles Lakers are the the defending champs, and they're going to be dominant more often than not this year. It starts with Kobe. With him, they're a juggernaut and without him they're merely excellent. D.J. Augustin is probably the only player on the Bobcats who would even have a prayer of perhaps starting for the Lakers, and that's a fluke of circumstance more than a commentary on Augustin's awesomeness.
Key to Victory
Pretending this was a regular season game... The Lakers' best lineup, even with Ron Artest now in the fold instead of Trevor Ariza, probably involves going "small" and playing Lamar Odom at the four. On a team level, among their units that played big minutes, their two best lineups both followed this template, going with Odom and Pau Gasol as the big men. Kobe, Ron Artest, and Derek Fisher play the other spots.
Blasphemous as this may seem, in order to win, the Cats have to take advantage of the Lakers whenever they put Bynum on the floor. Determining why Bynum is the weak link isn't the easiest task in the world, since the guy is as imposing a presence on the block as anyone this side of Dwight Howard. However, it probably has to do with his inability to mesh as well with the shooters around him as Gasol does from the center position. Bynum can't pass out of the post like Gasol, and he presents no face-up threat like Gasol does. Defensively, Gasol is probably a step down against bigger centers, but there probably isn't much of a difference against guys Gasol's size or smaller.
Ultimately, the Lakers' offense seems to be slightly bottlenecked when Bynum is there, and not so much when Odom steps out, defends fours, and plays like a three on offense. For the Bobcats, the point is clear: I'd rather have Gasol attempting to guard Boris Diaw than Odom sticking to him.
Detail That Might Interest .08% of Fans
Phil Jackson is the epitome of "coaching outside the game". I'm sure there's a technical term for it, but I'm referring to the notion that good coaches don't necessarily teach during competition; they let players be who they are during games, which frees them to be as effective as they can be. Tough coaching, correction, teaching, et cetera, occurs during practice. Sure, he'll remind and direct players, but he surrenders responsibility and -- gasp -- control of the game to his players. Larry Brown is constitutionally unable to do this, because if he does, the players might not play "The Right Way", which is really code for "Exactly The Way Brown Wants Them To Play".