Other factors in the NBA Finals: 3-point shooting, KG
3-point shooting (61 points)
Jalen Rose (15 points): Both of these squads need outside shooting to open up the floor for their go-to guys to operate.
David Thorpe (15 points): This is either the big equalizer or the blowout factor.
Both teams have enough matchup advantages to create open shots for their second and third options. Poor shooting from deep could be a death blow to either team in any game.
The team that can make 3s in transition gets an added bonus of creating easier shots inside in its early offense.
Tim Legler (11 points): It is absolutely critical that the Lakers' marksmen find the range in order to make the Celts pay for focusing on Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
The Lakers are a sensational passing team. They must find Derek Fisher, Vladimir Radmanovic, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar when Boston overloads one side of the floor. And once they do, these shooters need to deliver.
Henry Abbott (10 points): If either team has a player (e.g., Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Sasha Vujacic) heat up from downtown (I'm thinking of 5-for-7 or something similar), then between two evenly matched teams, that's likely enough to key a game-deciding run.
Chris Broussard (10 points): The Lakers have been very strong from beyond the arc in the playoffs. That, combined with Kobe's brilliance and the interior passing and scoring of Pau and Lamar Odom, makes the Lakers virtually unbeatable. Boston's going to have to keep LA from being so effective from 3. Plus, on the other end, Ray Allen will need to be hot from deep.
Ray Allen (41 points)
John Hollinger (23 points): We know what to expect from Kevin Garnett and Paul Piece in this series, but we don't have a clue what to expect from Allen.
Maybe he shoots the lights out and gives Boston a much-needed third scorer; maybe he shoots bricks and gets pulled for James Posey or Tony Allen in crunch time.
Chris Broussard (18 points): Every member of Boston's big three has to be on top of his game for the Celtics to win. When one-third of San Antonio's big three (Manu) stumbled, the Spurs lacked the firepower to keep up with L.A. despite big numbers from Tim Duncan and solid ones from Tony Parker. Ray's J will need to fall frequently for Boston to win four games.
2-3-2 format (38 points)
Chris Sheridan (20 points): Game 5 is usually the key game of any series, unless it goes seven, and it's an unfair advantage to the Lakers to have that game in their building -- especially if it's 2-2 going in.
That's why I think Boston needs to open 2-0 to have any chance to win the title.
Ric Bucher (18 points): Having won in Utah and San Antonio, the Lakers are thrilled that all they have to do is win one in Boston to entertain the thought of finishing the series in L.A. -- or, more precisely, against the Celtics' road persona, which is starkly different than their home one.
Click below to see the ballots of our 10 writers:
• Henry Abbott, TrueHoop
Phil vs. Doc (47 points)
Ric Bucher (27 points): The Zen Master is making his 11th Finals coaching appearance and has lost only once. That alone gives him a major edge in what to look for among his players and how to prepare them for the league's biggest stage.
Then add that he has a far more versatile roster, which he has utilized all season long -- regular and postseason -- like Emerson working a synthesizer, and it's hardly a fair fight.
John Hollinger (10 points): The Zen Master's ability in these situations is unquestioned; suffice it to say that Doc's isn't. With Boston an underdog already, Rivers can't be overmatched on the chessboard.
The good omen was that he played nearly all the right cards against Detroit, though my pleas for more Leon Powe still fall on deaf ears.
Jalen Rose (10 points): Championship level of execution and intangibles will be critical for both teams. These two maestros will be the conductors.
Celtics' offense (21 points)
David Thorpe (21 points): The Lakers have great size and length inside, making it tough to finish down low. So the Celtics have to make lots of open shots -- and some contested shots, too -- while limiting their turnovers.
This is the best offense the Celtics' D has faced in some time, so the Boston offense needs to keep pace as much as possible.
Lakers' offense (19 points)
David Thorpe (19 points): The Kobe factor will guarantee open shots, which the Lakers must recognize and hit with some consistency. Taking the first good look is a key against this defense, as a second good look rarely comes in time.
Finding ways to score in transition and on second shots inside also will help their confidence -- the absence of such points will embolden the Celtics while deflating the Lakers' shooters.
Lamar Odom (27 points)
Marc Stein (15 points): Gotta throw Pau in here, too. Because the Lakers are a true nightmare when Kobe's chief wingmen are playing well. If Odom and Gasol adapt quickly to playing on the big stage of the Finals, Boston's problems multiply immediately.
Chris Broussard (12 points): I know what I'm getting from Kobe, and to a large extent, Pau. What is Odom going to give me? He has to be big on the backboards to keep L.A. from getting crushed on the glass, and he has to be aggressive offensively. He should take advantage of anyone who guards him who is not named KG.
Kevin Garnett (20 points)
Henry Abbott (10 points): Boston doesn't rely on him for offense like the Lakers do Kobe Bryant, but he can't be a total nonfactor on that end.
I like Boston a lot better when he's dunking over people's heads than when he's passing back out to a well-covered Ray Allen. It's time to strut your stuff, big man.
J.A. Adande (10 points): When "Night Court" first came on, Bull the bailiff seemed really intimidating. When you caught the reruns in syndication, you realized how goofy and harmless a big man he really was.
That's often been the difference between KG in the first three quarters and KG in the fourth. But he could be only four ferocious fourth quarters away from forever altering his reputation.
Pau Gasol (15 points)
John Hollinger (15 points): How Gasol fares against Kendrick Perkins is likely to dictate how Boston lines up in crunch time.
If he's too quick for Perkins, then Doc Rivers likely goes small and puts Garnett on Gasol. But if Perk can frustrate Pau with his physicality, then Boston can play its preferred big lineup and potentially dominate the glass.
Officiating (10 points)
Chris Sheridan (10 points): I'd rather this wasn't a factor, but it has been the past two years.
Last June, it was the non-call when Bruce Bowen fouled LeBron on a 3-point attempt at the end of Game 3 -- I still can't believe LBJ didn't get that call in his own building.
The year before, it was Dwyane Wade's free throws at the end of Game 5.
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2008 NBA FINALS
And then there were two -- the Lakers and Celtics. Who will win the NBA Finals? Let the games begin.
Daily Dime• Celtics win 17th championship title
• Did C's lose Regret Game?
• A little help from Kobe's friends
• Time for L.A. to go small
• The Finals Can't Shake Donaghy Mess
• Unlikely Game 4 comeback gives C's 3-1 lead
• Rondo's ankle could change L.A.'s game plan
• Kobe leads Lakers to Game 3 win
• Lakers need to attack the paint
• Lakers learn Powe's name in Game 2
• Time for Gasol to step up
• Lakers need better defense in Game 2
• Pierce sparks Celtics in Game 1 victory
• Expert predictions, clutch stats
• Pierce loves playing Lakers
• Celtics to meet L.A. in the Finals
Lakers vs. Celtics• Stein: Q&A after six-game "sweep"
• MacMullan: Pierce's long road to greatness
• Hollinger: From camp to champs
• Stein: Boston's big three shine
• Adande: Questions loom over Lakers' future
• Hollinger: Celtics commit to defense
• Scouts Inc.: Game 6 breakdown
• Hollinger: Farmer steps up in Game 5
• Sheridan: Late-game letdown for Celtics
• Stein: Lakers ready to make history?
• Adande: Greatness eluding Phil and Kobe
• MacMullan: Doc adheres to dad's lessons
• Jackson: Time for L.A.'s concession speech?
• Stein: Game 4 not Kobe's finest hour
• Adande: KG dominates Gasol again
• Hollinger: Rivers makes all the right moves
• Hill: Kobe's Laker legacy on the line
• Hollinger: Vujacic lends helping hand in Game 3
• Jackson: Jump shot Jesus has returned
• Stein: Lakers need to earn sympathy
• Adande: Lakers feel foul over whistle disparity
• Jackson: Leading role suits Pierce
• Adande: Kobe turns away from the pass late
• Stein: Pierce's knee key to rest of series
• Finals factor 1: Kobe Bryant
• Finals factor 2: Celtics Defense
• Finals factor 3: Paul Pierce
• Finals factor 4: Home-court advantage
• Finals factor 5: Battle of the benches
• Hollinger: Lakers offense vs. Celtics defense
• Broussard: Turning back the clock
• Adande: How did Kobe get here?
• Scouts Inc. breakdown: Lakers vs. Celtics
• Coaching comparison: Red vs. Phil
• Smith: Kobe's moving forward
• Scoop: Fiendin' for a ring
• Top 10 moments of Lakers-Celtics rivalry
• ESPN Classic schedule: Relive the rivalry
TrueHoop• TrueHoop: Finals reflections
• TrueHoop: Doc Rivers' redemption
• TrueHoop: Lakers got Rondo'd
• Tough night for Allen
• Game 5 live blogging
• Laker nation vs. NBA refs
• Pierce and the evaporating knee story
• Game 2 live blogging
• Coaxing Kobe Bryant into hero mode
• Game 1 live blogging
• Today's game isn't so different
Simmons• Notes from the C's winning night
• Boston's X factors
• Game 4 running diary
• Time for NBA Finals answers
• The C's and city both look good
• The Truth comes out in Game 1
• NBA Finals forecast
• Chat: NBA Finals preview
• Simmons: You want a piece of Kobe, Boston?
ESPN The Magazine• Sporting Equivalency: NBA Finals meets hip hop
• Broussard: Reporting from the NBA Finals
Fantasy• Join the fun of NBA Finals: Playcaller
Audio• Dish: NBA Finals recap
• Wyc Grossbeck on C's championship
• Ray Allen on how the Celtics evolved
• Bob Ryan compares '86 C's to current one
• Jon Barry credits Tom Thibodeau's team defense
• Game 4 reactions
• Rajon Rondo on Pierce, Game 2 plans
• Bill Walton on Celtics-Lakers history
• Dr. J on Finals, '80s hoops