The 2-3-2 format benefits the Celtics. With three games in LA, it will be almost impossible for the Lakers to win three in a row at home vs a Boston team that had the best regular season record.
But the Lakers can win two games at Boston. Look for the Lakers to get a split on the road in Game 1 or 2.
Some keys to the series:
Boston's defense floods the strong side. Why does this matter?
Because LA has great offensive spacing and their guys know their spots in Phil's Triangle offense. They also do a good job on reads and, because they're good (and willing) passers, they'll get the ball to the weaksisde of floor.
As a passer, Gasol is as good as any 5 man in league. His front-court mate -- Odom -- is a great passer as a power forward. Both have great vision. Yes, passing matters, even for the big men.
Off the bench, Walton understands the Laker offense and is also an excellent passer. LA's elbow weakside guard-around action could give BOS trouble.
Late in the game, the Celtics will have to handle LA's 52 or 53 play, which is a pick-and-roll with Kobe handling. It's awfully tough to spot, but I'd bet Doc will have a scheme for it.
When the Lakers are on defense, keep an eye on who guards Pierce. If Radmanovic has Pierce, look for BOS to iso on the wing and post up Pierce to go at Radmanovic when Kobe is on Ray Allen.
As the game goes on, the Lakers may put Sasha Vujacic on Allen and Kobe on Pierce. [If Bynum was healthy, Odom could play the small forward and defend Pierce. Odom's length would challange Pierce's post-ups.]
Expect Fisher and Sasha to try to force Rondo into turning the ball over when Rondo is handling and setting up Boston's offense. When Rondo doesn't have ball, his man will become a free safety -- roaming to help with the Celtics' Big Three.
Boston may look to get Allen off early, bringing him off a ton of screens and making Kobe work early at chasing and fighting through.
A big key is the Odom/Gasol vs KG match-up. At PF, Odom really needs to get out and run in transition. Garnett is the best weakside defender in the NBA because of his defensive intelligence and length. He'll have to really defend on-ball when matched up against Gasol and/or Odom.
For more thoughts on the series, see this previous post.