Position-by-position matchups for the NBA finals
CENTER: Andrew Bynum vs. Kendrick Perkins. The Lakers sorely missed Bynum two years ago against the Celtics in the finals, when he was sidelined with a knee injury. He's back now but still has knee problems that have limited him to only about 24 minutes per game in the postseason. Perkins, an excellent defender, will look forward to an easier cover after having to defend and be defended by Dwight Howard in the last round. Edge: Even.
POWER FORWARD: Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett. The matchup that could swing the series. Garnett easily had the better of it two years, but Gasol is much tougher than he was then and is having a terrific postseason. Still a top defender, Garnett scored at least 18 points in every game against Cleveland in the second round, then managed more than 10 only once against Orlando. Edge: Lakers.
SMALL FORWARD: Ron Artest vs. Paul Pierce. Artest will drive the Lakers' fans and coaches nuts with some bad shots, but all will be forgiven if he can do what Los Angeles couldn't do two years ago: defend Pierce. Pierce's offensive game is back on track after he had to sacrifice scoring while defending LeBron James in the East semifinals, so Artest will have to be at his best. Edge: Celtics.
SHOOTING GUARD: Kobe Bryant vs. Ray Allen. Bryant comes off a magnificent series against Phoenix in the West finals, averaging 33.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 8.3 assists while making 52.1 percent of his shots. He wants this one badly after the Celtics held him in check in their victory two years ago. Allen, still one of the NBA's best shooters, scored 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting in Boston's regular-season victory over Los Angeles but was limited to seven and shot just 2 for 10 in its loss. Edge: Lakers.
POINT GUARD: Derek Fisher vs. Rajon Rondo. Rondo has been one of the best players in this postseason, but he's taken a lot of bumps along the way and wasn't as spectacular in the conference finals as he was against Cleveland in the previous round. Still, his athleticism makes this the one matchup that should definitely favor Boston. Fisher still can be counted on to hit a big shot somewhere along the way, as he did in Game 4 of last year's finals. Edge: Celtics.
RESERVES: Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton vs. Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Nate Robinson and Michael Finley. A lot depends on the health of the Celtics, who watched Davis and Wallace get banged up in the previous round. If the Celtics are healthy, they are deeper. Tony Allen will get plenty of chances to defend Bryant. Edge: Celtics.
COACHES: Phil Jackson vs. Doc Rivers. After the Celtics delayed him two years ago, Jackson won his NBA-best 10th championship last June. Rivers carefully monitored his aging stars' minutes late in the season, even as it cost the Celtics wins. The most intriguing part of the coaching matchup this year could be the rumor mill: There's talk that neither will be back with his team next season. Edge: Even.