LA Lakers: Would They Prefer to Play the Bulls, Heat or Celtics in the Finals?

One of the most unheralded elements of success in the NBA postseason is the vital role matchups play in determining the outcome.

NBA analyst Kenny Smith likes to use his two-time champion Rockets teams as an example of what can be accomplished by a team that plays the postseason drawing largely favorable matchups.

"There was one team in the NBA we just could not matchup with, that was the Seattle Supersonics," says Smith. "Their trapping defense was very successful at taking Hakeem Olajuwon out of his offense game, and we struggled as a result. We were 0-8 versus the Sonics the two years we won the title. But they were upset in the first round both years so we never had to face them."

The next year the Rockets did face the Sonics in the playoffs-- in 1996--the Sonics won the series 4-0.

 Last year, the Lakers were also lucky to play only favorable matchups as neither the (Thunder 1-3 against LA last season) Jazz (1-3 also) or Suns (1-3) created the types of problems for the Lakers that the Spurs, Nuggets or Trailblazers had. Granted, the Lakers had matchup issues with the Celtics, but having homecourt advantage in game 7 obviously benefited the team. (Imagine if game 7 was in Cleveland or Orlando?).

Which brings us to today, the Lakers are sitting on a 55-24 record. They will be heavily favored in the first two rounds regardless of who they play, although if they face the San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals they would be forced to win their first postseason series without homecourt advantage since 2004.

But if the Lakers do advance to the finals, what matchup would they deem the most favorable? Which Eastern Conference team are they best equipped to beat and which one do they not want to face?

Let's answer this question by looking at the three most likely Eastern Conference Champions.

Boston Celtics

After losing to the Lakers in game 7 of the final...

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