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Saturday Sports: Fans Say 'Meh' To NBA Playoffs


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: The Washington Wizards beat the Boston Celtics last night by just one point at the buzzer. John Wall going for the win from downtown to force game 7. The winner will face the vaunted Cleveland Cavaliers. Basketball fans have a gripe. These playoffs are less gripping than usual. NPR's Tom Goldman joins me. Good morning, Tom. Get a grip, man.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning (laughter). I've got a grip. I've got a grip. Go ahead

SIMON: These playoffs were just looking a little stale, and then the past week occurred. What happened?

GOLDMAN: Well, let's talk about the staleness first. Staleness - is that a word? Let's talk about...

SIMON: Stalility (ph).

GOLDMAN: Stalility?

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: They weren't very good. Even the eminent Sir Charles Barkley called them a nightmare at the beginning of the week. Too many games that were not close and competitive. You had two teams, the Cavaliers and the Warriors, so much better than everyone else that it was impossible to envision any other team making it to the finals.

Scott, I ran a few simple numbers - because I'm a simple person - of the 64 - you didn't disagree. Of the 64 postseason games so far, only 28 have been decided by fewer than 10 points. Everything else - double-digit wins. Out of the 12 series so far, all the series are best 4 out of 7. Of course, only two have gone the full seven. We love game seven. Winner take all. We haven't had enough of them.

And then, in those 12 series, the lower seed has won only one of the series, meaning no upsets. Cleveland and Golden State are both 8-0 in the postseason. The Warriors are winning by an average margin of 16.5 points. Those two are barreling toward each other for a third straight NBA Finals, which we're hoping will be epic but just not a lot of buzz until then.

SIMON: But this week, I mean you had the rejuvenation of the Spurs. You had, you know, James Harden's disappearing. Go ahead, yes.

GOLDMAN: Well, last night, as you mentioned, John Wall from downtown hitting, I think, it was from K Street, as a matter of fact. The Wizards were behind by 5 with a little over a minute left in the game. Lose and they're out of the playoffs. They came back. Wall hit that shot, and all the D.C. sports fans still grieving about another Washington Capitals flame out in the NHL playoffs had reason to cheer.

And Thursday, the Spurs - why do we always forget about the Spurs, Scott? You know, maybe because they're not shiny and cool like the Warriors and the Cavs. They're just consistently great. And they simply destroyed Houston by 39 points in Houston to win the series - a series that began with the Rockets beating San Antonio by 27 and prompting sportswriters to declare the Spurs slow, old and done, forgetting completely that head coach Gregg Popovich is a master and always has been. And his team ends up beating a Houston team that was a sexy pick to challenge the Warriors in the West, at least a little bit. And now San Antonio gets to do the challenging.

SIMON: Before we leave the Spurs and that wonderful story, tell us about Jonathan Simmons. This is an athlete who's gone from the D-League to the NBA semifinals.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, pretty amazing. You know, he didn't get drafted out of college. He finally caught on in the D-League, as you mentioned, the NBA's minor league. This is the great part. He paid a $150 registration fee to try out for the D-League.

So he paid to play, and then he did really well. And he's getting paid to play. And there he was Thursday playing a big part in shutting down Houston's MVP candidate James Harden. Great story.

SIMON: I don't - at the same time, though, we are taking a look at these two teams that are each 4-0. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the - what's the name of the other team? I'm trying to remember. The Golden State...

GOLDMAN: San Francisco Warriors - Golden State Warriors.

SIMON: Yeah, exactly. And they have - you know, they have chosen exactly the right time of the year to begin to blossom.

GOLDMAN: Oh, yeah. They're just - well, they're so far and away better than anyone is. And I said - as I said, they are barreling toward the finals. This week did a lot to resuscitate the playoffs. But a Golden-State-Cleveland matchup, we're hoping will be great.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott.


SIMON: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on