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Sixers president Pat Croce gives an "unbiased" opinion on the NBA Finals.
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Expect Lakers to stop Sixers in five


June 5
The Sixers will have their hands full against Shaq, Kobe and the Lakers in the NBA Finals (Game 1, Wednesday, ESPN Radio coverage begins 8:37 p.m. ET).

Allen Iverson has had a great postseason, averaging 32.1 points per game. He led the Sixers past a Milwaukee team that enjoyed a phenomenal year. The bottom line was Philadelphia played like a hard-nosed, tough team that would not lose.

Allen Iverson
Watching Allen Iverson was a real joy for Wideman last year.
The Sixers won't wilt under the pressure because Iverson is so special. Dikembe Mutombo has been a major presence in the middle; his acquisition was very important. He can negate some of Shaq's moves near the basket. It's hard to double-up on Shaq, and Mutombo must stay out of foul trouble.

The key to facing the Lakers is containing the support players. It's a given that Shaq and Kobe will combine for 60 points every night. But stopping Derek Fisher and Rick Fox is the key. Fisher hit 15-of-20 trifectas against the Spurs in the four-game sweep. His return from a broken foot has given the Lakers a major boost as he helps distribute the ball.

The finals also features a special coaching matchup. Phil Jackson has already established himself as one of the best NBA coaches of all time and he'd love to add another ring. Larry Brown, whom I believe belongs in the Hall of Fame, has added another special note on his resumé.

Brown is now one of four coaches to take a college team to the Final Four and a pro team to the NBA Finals. Think about this select group: Brown (Kansas and Sixers), Dr. Jack Ramsay (St. Joseph's, Pa., and Trail Blazers), Butch Van Breda Kolff (Princeton and Lakers) and Fred Schaus (West Virginia and Lakers) are the only men to accomplish that feat. Brown has a shot to be the only man to coach a national champion (Kansas in '88) and an NBA title winner.

The bottom line is this: The Sixers simply don't have enough firepower to beat the Lakers. Iverson, Mutombo and company are capable of taking one or two games, but I don't see them getting four. I see Los Angeles repeating, going to the winner's circle in five games.

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