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Setting picks

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  October 30, 2008 01:16 PM

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You might recall the mini-controversy that brewed around here last June when nine of 10 ESPN NBA "experts" predicted that the Lakers would defeat the Celtics in the Finals. For the record, Tim Legler was the lone wolf who picked a Boston victory.

For the eventual champs, it was a convenient and ready-made "we-get-no-respect" angle -- assuming, of course, that the Celtics even pay attention to such things as the barely considered predictions of sportswriters.

We're pointing this out now only because, based on this season's predictions, it seems the Celtics have won a few friends and influenced at least a couple of people among the ESPN staffers . . . though still not the majority.

Of their 18 experts, seven pick the Lakers to win it all this season, while five (Maurice Brooks, John Hollinger, Chris Sheridan, Dr. Jack Ramsay, and Legler) think the Celtics will repeat. Hey, it's progress.

All 18 have the Celtics winning the Atlantic Division, and 13 have them repeating as Eastern Conference champions.

Three quick conclusions here:

1) ESPN acquired a lot more "experts" in the offseason, which to us might suggest that the suits in Bristol realized that the holdover experts' primary "expertise" was in being spectacularly wrong. (Or so we like to think.)

2) A number of them believe a healthy Andrew Bynum will make the difference for the Lakers this season . . . and might have in the Finals as well.

3) If Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the rest of the Celtics have anything to say about it, Legler will again be the smartest man in the room come season's end.

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