The common (and obvious) comparison for any Lakers-Celtics series is their meetings in the playoffs from decades prior, particularly their heated battles during the 1980s. But SB Nation's Mike Prada is watching the 2010 NBA Finals and seeing more of the Pistons-Bulls series.
If you think about it a bit, it's pretty uncanny how all the storylines line up. The Bulls-Pistons rivalry was basically a battle between a great team without one star player and a transcendent individual desperately hoping his criticized supporting cast can step up their games. It was a battle between a ferocious defense and an offense that, in theory, is equal-opportunity, but in practice is not. It was a battle between old, prideful champions and a group of upstarts hoping to get the past the one team that they can't beat. It was a battle where the games themselves weren't always pretty, but the intensity was palpable in the building.
Prada goes on to draw comparisons between players then and now. Nate Robinson is Vinnie Johnson. Glen Davis is John Salley. Kendrick Perkins is Rick Mahorn. Rajon Rondo is Dennis Rodman. Kevin Garnett is Bill Laimbeer. And Paul Pierce is Isiah Thomas:
We remember Isiah as one of the best point guards of his generation, but by 1989, he was not putting up the same kinds of numbers he did in 1985. Why? Part of it was age, but most of it was because he finally had better teammates. Thomas didn't need to do everything for the Pistons to win: he could rely on his teammates and close games late when they needed him. In other words, the story of Thomas' career is basically this: he put up great numbers on mediocre teams, then sacrificed shots and touches once he got better teammates in order to become a champion. History remembers him fondly, but he had to make those sacrifices to create his legacy. Because he did, we remember him as a champion and as a player who survived so many iterations of the Pistons to get there.
If you think about it, this also describes Paul Pierce perfectly. Pierce is the original Celtic on this team, just as Isiah was the original Piston back then. He's lived through so many versions of the Celtics, gone through so much losing, and has eventually come out ahead on the other side. To get there, though, Pierce had to overcome his own demons, his crappy teammates, feuds with coaches and players and a fanbase that didn't always support him. But just like Thomas, Pierce got his reprieve with an infusion of talent, and in return, he sacrificed shots and points to help bring it all together.
You can probably guess who got the Michael Jordan comparison.