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.
Here's Marc Stein's ballot:
1. Kobe (40 points): This has been Kobe's season more than anyone else's, and I fully expect him to polish it off appropriately. The combination of No. 24's being this close to the finish line and the fact that Boston can't guard him like San Antonio did will be fatal for the Celts.
2. Home-court advantage (20 points): If Boston wants to make those of us picking L.A. look stupid, its first objective is clear: Win the first two games. No one has been able to put the Lakers in a hole in these playoffs. It would be great to see how the Lakers respond playing from behind for once and needing to win those middle three games.
3. Bench battle (15 points): The Lakers have the league's best bench, and their subs can really speed up the game to Boston's detriment. Doc Rivers, meanwhile, has been gradually losing his faith in his bench in these playoffs. Like Kobe himself, the bench should be another huge difference-maker for L.A.
4. Lamar Odom (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.
5. Paul Pierce (10 points): The Lakers face almost as many question marks about how they're going to guard Pierce as the Celts face Kobe-wise. Pierce has to be huge all series for Boston to score an upset although I suspect we'll see Kobe sliding onto Pierce in fourth quarters if PP is slicing them up.
Wild card: James Posey. He 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.