The eyes of America will be on these two great franchises tonight as Game 1 will take place sometime starting sometime after 9 eastern in Boston. For both of these teams, the past 12 months have been a startling change. For the Lakers, they were bounced in the first round of last year's playoffs for the 2nd straight year by the Suns. For the Celtics, they were terrible throughout the year, even having to endure an 18 game losing streak.
Both of these teams used major trades to turn around their fortunes. The Celtics were able to pick up two legitimate all stars in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the offseason. The Lakers saw a developing Andrew Bynum go down and then they went out and "stole" Pau Gasol. These teams are also full of role players that have played way above their heads in the past few months (Just to name a few: Rondo, Perkins, Walton, etc.) There are 6 legitimate stars in this series: KG, Allen, Pierce, Kobe, Gasol and Odom. The rest of these rosters have complimentary players that could very well decide the series. I like Boston's rotation much better than LA's for some reason and I see this winning the Celtics at least a game.
I'm going against the great Kobe Bryant and the revitalized Lakers in this series. I think the Celtics have shown themselves to be an improving team throughout the playoffs. They looked terrible against the lowly Hawks at certain points, better against Cleveland and similar to the regular season team against the Pistons. Remember when people asked whether they could win a road game in the playoffs? Well, they won 2 against Detroit (although I would argue Detroit is the worst "good" team at home in the playoffs the past 6-8 years; look at how many big games they lost at home. Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals comes to mind along with two straight Game 5 losses to Cleveland two years in a row. If you're a great team or one that supposed to contend for an NBA title, you have to be able to win almost all of your home games.)
The Lakers haven't lost a home game yet in the playoffs but they aren't that great of a home team either. I don't see the Celtics fearing going into LA, even though the series will be 2-3-2. I think the winner of Game 1 will have a huge advantage in this series, even more than usual. Game 2 isn't until Sunday night while the teams will then travel all the way to LA after that game to play Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday. This is why I think the Celtics will have an advantage. They are good enough to win both games in Boston (my prediction), go to LA and win one of three there and come home to close it out in 6. Kobe is good enough to take this team on his back, average 35 a game, get to the line a ridiculous amount of times and pop the champagne in LA in Game 4 or 5. But I don't see that happening.
I will give you position by position matchups a bit later. I will also discuss the tremendous advantage LA has in the coaching department and why this isn't going to kill Boston.