So last week I mentioned that it was the 5-year anniversary of my first appearance on Around the Horn. A few episodes later, the group was predicting the 2004 NBA Finals -- Lakers vs. Pistons.
No one gave the Pistons a chance. One guy said "Lakers in 7." One said "Lakers in 6." One said "Lakers in 5." That left me with a nice bold claim: "Lakers in 4." The Pistons didn't have a chance.
Until they did, clobbering the Lakers in 5 games.
That was what I was thinking about as I made my official prediction in today's SN column of the Magic winning in 5. No one is giving Orlando a chance. The entire ESPN panel -- except Abbott -- picked the Lakers. (This is the same group that uniformly picked the Cavs to beat the Magic, so there you go.)
The only thing that's throwing me off is the 2-3-2 format. But I think the Magic can win a game in L.A. -- maybe even tomorrow night's Game 1, then sweep all 3 games in Orlando.
The matchups favor the Magic, as they have all playoffs long -- even if the experts didn't recognize it. Who will guard Howard -- Andrew Bynum? And I keep hearing that Pau Gasol will guard Rashard Lewis -- where, by the 3-point line? Perhaps Ariza is the long athletic player to guard Hedo Turkoglu - then again, maybe he'll foul out trying to guard him.
Will Kobe get his? Of course. But we just saw LeBron dominate the Magic -- right up until his team was bounced out of the playoffs by them. The Lakers are a better team than the Cavs, but not that much better. And the Magic are playing out of their minds right now.
Obama picks the Lakers in 6, and he has been on a hot streak lately, in terms of sports predictions. But I remember the lessons of 2004, the last time "everyone" thought the Lakers would roll to a title past an overmatched team from the East. We know how that turned out.
Maybe my judgment is clouded by my enthusiasm over picking the Magic over the Cavs in 6 -- my best (perhaps only correct) prediction of the year. After all, I picked the Lakers to lose to the Nuggets in 6. But I think folks are sleeping on Orlando -- still, after the way they have dispatched both the defending champs and the team with the best record in the league. Still?
Magic in 5.
More you'll find in today's column:
*Jameer Nelson is Willis Reed 2.0
*Roy Halladay is the new Zack Greinke
*Big Unit goes for 300 -- last 300-winner ever?
*Memphis says: NO EVIDENCE, NCAA!
Plus a lot more. Complete column here. More later. Your Finals picks in the Comments.