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.
Click through the pages to see how the voting went.
Click below to see the ballots of our 10 writers:
• Henry Abbott, TrueHoop
• J.A. Adande, ESPN.com
• Chris Broussard, ESPN The Mag
• Ric Bucher, ESPN The Mag
• John Hollinger, ESPN.com
• Tim Legler, ESPN
• Jalen Rose, ESPN
• Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com
• Marc Stein, ESPN.com
• David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.
Here's David Thorpe's ballot:
1. Kobe (30 points): The best player in these playoffs is a huge difference-maker in the fourth quarter. His ability to create points and open up shots for teammates might be the answer to Boston's defense. The Lakers can't win without great production from their MVP.
He also is capable of playing shut-down defense on Ray Allen -- and he can give Pierce problems on occasion.
2. Celtics' offense (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.
3. Lakers' offense (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.
4. Bench battle (15 points): Both teams depend on points and playmaking from their bench. The team that gets more production here earns a big edge. In particular, I'll be watching the backup point guards.
It's not so much about outplaying the opponent cumulatively in the series, but more about who gets the better of whom in four games.
5. 3-point shooting (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.
Wild card: Kevin Garnett's offensive game. This might be the major factor as this series unfolds. He's capable of scoring 30-plus points in every game if he's of the mindset to do so.
When Boston's offense grows cold, will KG step up, just as we anticipate Kobe doing when L.A.'s shooters are off? And what can we expect from him late in games?
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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.
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• Time for L.A. to go small
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• Kobe leads Lakers to Game 3 win
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• 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
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Audio• Dish: NBA Finals recap
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• 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
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