NBA Playoffs: Lakers Arrive, But Celtics Dominate

We're nearing the end of the NBA's first playoff round, and the usual suspects are starting to find their comfort zones. Friday night, a trio of Celtics made a statement on the court, as did a couple of previously unspectacular Lakers. This sounds familiar. Host Scott Simon talks NBA playoff basketball with NPR's Mike Pesca.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for sports.

Nearing the end of the NBA's first playoff round and the usual suspects seem to be getting comfortable. Last night, a trio of Celtics made a statement, as did a couple of previously sleepy Lakers. Boy, that sounds familiar. NPR's sports guy Mike Pesca joins us.

Mike, thanks for being with us.

MIKE PESCA: You're welcome.

SIMON: Now, last night, I mean, the Celtics had New York from the get-go, didn't they?

PESCA: Yes. Unlike the previous two games where New York had been winning in the last minutes of the games only to see the Celtics come back and snatch victory from them, this one was not in doubt.

What is in doubt is if the Knicks are going to win a playoff game for the first time in 10 years, because the Celtics lead that series three games to none. History is not on the Knicks side. Comebacks never been made in the NBA under these circumstances.

And the Celtics do have such a better roster of players, especially because the Knicks traded almost every good player they had a couple of months ago to acquire Carmelo Anthony.

But Carmelo has been the only truly healthy Knick throughout the post season. Chauncey Billups, the Knicks point guard, has been out for almost all the games. And Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks center, has been ailing. It has been a mismatch, even though the first two games were close.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the L.A.-Hornets series, because last night, of course, the Lakers won. Kobe scored 30 points. Pau Gasol finally hit double digits. But I really admire the way New Orleans has been holding out. Are they done?

PESCA: No, I wouldn't say they're done, because they did win that first game in Los Angeles. And that was a bit of a statement. But, you know, the L.A. Lakers are the two-time defending champions.

And if you look back at their history they haven't cruised to championships in terms of never losing a game. But they do seem to get the job done. So Gasol had eight points in each of his first two games, but he came on really strong last night. And even in game two, which the Lakers won quite handily, Kobe Bryant really had an off game. But he had a fantastic game in game three down there in New Orleans.

So the Hornets have played well, but when you just look at the two rosters. When you consider the fact that Lamar Odom is the NBA's sixth man and he's such a good player for the Lakers. And the Hornets just don't have a roster anywhere near as deep as that.

SIMON: Memphis is at home tonight against the San Antonio Spurs who are heavily favored. Any chance Memphis can get at least another win?

PESCA: Well, yeah. Memphis did start the series off with a win. It was the first postseason game that they won. Memphis has good defenders.

The big difference in this game is Manu Ginobili, the crafty Argentine who makes the Spurs offense go, who provides spark, provides intensity, always answers the call.

The Spurs had the best record in the west in the regular season. But coming into the playoffs it didn't seem like they were the odds-on favorite because of injuries, but also because everyone sort of takes the Spurs for granted. Now that Ginobili is back they're going to be, of course, a hard out as they say in this postseason.

SIMON: Have to bring this up. Chicago History Museum this week brought attention to the fact that a 1920 court deposition by the Chicago White Sox' Ed Cicotte, the pitcher - these are the guys that were widely believed to have thrown the 1919 World Series. They say, hey, don't blame us - the White Sox -the Cubs fixed the 1918 World Series.

PESCA: Yeah, it was sort of...

SIMON: Why is Chicago considered the second city? I think we lead in a lot of categories. Yeah?

PESCA: Being open to graft, yeah.

I guess the news here is that perhaps the Cubs not only were on the take in a game here or there, but that the World Series against the Red Sox, that was maybe not on the level.

SIMON: But what we Chicagoans call the Curse of the Billy Goat could be the curse of the thrown World Series.

Mike Pesca, thanks so much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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