We asked 10 of our experts to rate the most important factors leading into the NBA Finals. Each expert had 100 points to apportion among five key factors. The rules stated no factor could be worth more than 50 points or less than 10 points. Each expert named a wild-card factor as well.
Factor No. 2: Celtics' Defense (171 points)
Henry Abbott (50 points): If this part of their game is a constant, then home-court advantage alone could decide things.
If the Lakers are carving it up, however, I don't see how Boston can win.
Chris Broussard (35 points): The best defense in the league will have to slow down the best offense in the league. That's a tough chore considering the Lakers have a terrific one-on-one scorer (Kobe Bryant), great passing, interior scoring (Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom) and very good 3-point shooting. The Celtics can't win a shootout with L.A., so their D has to be excellent.
Tim Legler (25 points): They get it done as a group. Kevin Garnett is the most versatile front-line defender on the planet, and the C's have five bodies to use at the 4 and 5 positions. Pierce is underrated defensively, and Rajon Rondo has finally learned how to use his quickness to disrupt the opposition's rhythm.
Jalen Rose (25 points): Led by KG, the Celts are the best in the league at making teams shoot low percentages and getting stops when needed. They will make it tough for the Lakers to make plays, which will give the Celtics a chance to win this series.
J.A. Adande (22 points):
As in, they allow only 22 points per quarter in the playoffs. It's like the gunfights on "The A-Team" for the opponents -- lots of shots are taken, but none of them is deadly.
The Celtics won Game 6 in Detroit with their fourth-quarter defense. The Lakers haven't faced anything like this so far.
Ric Bucher (14 points): The problem the Lakers' offense poses is that Kobe, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol are compatible; all three can have big scoring nights without impinging on one another's game.
The Celtics' defense is no mirage, but can they keep the clamps on L.A.'s big three and still have the will and energy to slow down L.A.'s run-and-gun bench mob?