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 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?