Most important factors in the Finals: Wild cards
Henry Abbott: Paul Pierce's extra gear in recent big gamesIn Boston's two most recent closeout games, Pierce has been an MVP-quality player. I don't know what gets into him in those games, but it makes the Celtics something special. If he can bring that two or three times, Boston will win.
J.A. Adande: Game 1It's hard to believe the series could be decided after one game, but if the Lakers win the opener, it's over.
Phil Jackson has never lost in the playoffs after his team won the first game -- he's 41-0 lifetime. His teams know how to sustain a good start to a series.
Unlike, say, "Moonlighting."
Chris Broussard: ReboundingThis is critical and is Boston's biggest advantage. L.A. was crushed on the boards by Denver and Utah but those teams weren't complete enough to capitalize. If Boston can do the same, it is strong enough to capitalize. If the Celtics demolish L.A. on the glass like they did to Detroit, they can win this series.
Ric Bucher: HungerHearing Paul Pierce talking about being part of history and Kevin Garnett saying going to the Finals fulfilled a dream is all well and good -- but it just sounds too much like the Orlando Magic, circa 1995. They, too, were equipped on paper to give the Rockets a battle, but had the just-freakin'-blissed-out-to-be-here vibe, which grew into a full-blown gong after they lost the first game in the final seconds and three more quickly thereafter.
Several Lakers, meanwhile, talked about the bitter taste of losing in their last visit to the Finals, even though it was four years ago. I just don't get the sense the Lakers are the least bit satisfied, and I can't say the same for the fellas in green.
John Hollinger: Tony AllenA total nonfactor through the first three playoff rounds, Allen could potentially play a much larger role against L.A. if he's healed from a strained right Achilles tendon.
Though a bit of a train wreck offensively, his quickness and tenacity on D make him Boston's best matchup against Bryant.
Click below to see the ballots of our 10 writers:
• Henry Abbott, TrueHoop
Tim Legler: The Celtics' other twoThe big three get all the attention, but starters Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo will have a lot to do with the outcome.
Perkins can be a beast, especially against a finesse team like the Lakers, and Rondo will thrive in the open-court style the Lakers allow.
Chris Sheridan: KG in the clutchThe knock on KG throughout his career has been that he doesn't always exude confidence in the way he plays down the stretch, which usually manifests itself with the viewer asking, "Why did he pass that instead of shoot it?"
If several of these games go down to the wire, as I expect, this will be something to watch for in those situations.
Marc Stein: James PoseyHe is the best-equipped Celtic to try to keep up with Kobe. But even if you believe Posey is quick enough -- and I just had a great chat with Ron Artest during which Ron repeatedly said Posey can't -- Boston either has to play a very small lineup (Posey at the four) to keep Ray Allen on the floor or cut into Ray's time to get Posey enough PT. Quite a conundrum for Doc Rivers.
David Thorpe: Kevin Garnett's offensive gameThis 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?
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