NHL Action, NBA Playoffs And A Run For The Roses

Friday night in the NHL saw the Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers, two very good teams, end their Stanley Cup bids without putting up much of a fight. Host Scott Simon talks to NPR's Mike Pesca about the week's NBA and NHL playoff games and the Kentucky Derby.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Time for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

Playoffs - they send some teams back home, some further on. In the NBA, the L.A. Lakers find themselves slipping toward oblivion. The NHL's aging Detroit Wed Wings - Wed Wings, I apolo...oh, wow, sowwy - look tired, but they showed life last night. And this afternoon, of course, the Kentucky Derby field may run a little longer than normal. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us.

Mike, thanks for being with us.

MIKE PESCA: You're wewwy welcome.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Thank you, Michael. The Lakers are down 3-0. The Lakers are down 3-0. And Dallas looks good.

PESCA: The Mavericks, you know, they have Dirk Nowitzki. And every league, every sport has the player who's so good but somehow couldn't put pieces around him to win a championship or came very close and didn't win.

And I think in basketball it's Dirk Nowitzki, a guy who's redefined his position. He hangs around the perimeter, but he's seven feet tall. And he's just a tremendous scorer. And so that is a main reason why Dallas is winning. Jason Kidd and the rest of their very experienced team have also been coming up big.

But the Lakers have a problem and it really hasn't been exposed until this round. In stocks I think you're supposed to diversify your portfolio. But I sometimes get the feeling that in the NBA it's better just to have one guy and let it ride on him. And it used to be Kobe Bryant.

But the Lakers do have better players. And this year they tried to get them more involved. And I think what we're seeing is that some of those other players, namely Pau Gasol, who has enormous talent and has come up big in the past, there's something wrong with him this year.

And in the postgame press conference they were asking the Lakers coach, you know, does he even have the heart to give you a big game. And so that spells doom for the Lakers. But what really spells doom is that in NBA history no team has come back from a 3-0 deficit. So unless they shock the world, the Lakers -two-time defending champions - are going to be eliminated.

SIMON: We'll just stipulate, the Bulls look good, don't they?

PESCA: They sure do. And Derrick Rose is one of those guys who is a killer. He had 44 points against the Hawks. And they had the best record in the east. And, of course, we always by contract have to mention the Heat. And the Heat are up 2-0 in their series against the Celtics. And they play today.

SIMON: Last night, we saw the Philly Flyers, a very good team in the NHL, get swept, while the Detroit Red Wings, whose front line I think has an average age of 50...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...they beat the San Jose Sharks.

PESCA: Yeah. The Red Wings pulled one out of the fire. They staved off elimination with a 4-3 victory. And what happened in the first round of the NHL playoffs, half the series went the full seven games. And even those that didn't were full of overtime games or - it was amazing.

This second round have been a bunch of sweeps. Who knows if the Red Wings will be able to come back? It looks like they won't.

SIMON: The derby. My guy Uncle Mo is out.

PESCA: Yeah.

SIMON: So what do you think about Mucho Macho Man?

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: I think - you know, this is what my - my philosophy on the derby usually is take some flyers on the long shots, on this year especially, because there always has to be a favorite. And this year, you know, the favorite is by default. They are three-year-olds. Not many of them have distinguished themselves. No one knows what's really wrong with Uncle Mo.

But the favorite is Dialed In. At least - and this is what betters are responded to - his father was Mineshaft. His grandfather was A.P. Indy. His great - sorry, his great-grandfather was Seattle Slew. You know, great horses. So just look at his bloodlines. He should be maybe the favorite, if not the winner.

SIMON: And one classy guy, Seve Ballesteros, has died, lost his battle with cancer.

PESCA: Yeah, a couple of years ago it was discovered he had brain cancer. He's a five-time major winner, great at the British Open. Was ranked by Golf Digest as the greatest golfer from the continent of Europe. And fans just loved him. And by all accounts a really tremendous person.

SIMON: NPR's Mike Pesca.

Thanks so much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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