SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And now it is time for sports.
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SIMON: It's the Cavs and the Warriors in the NBA playoffs, no shock but hardly a ho-hum - not a clear picture in tennis, though. And NPR's Tom Goldman is here to explain everything to us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: (Laughter) Everything - good morning, Scott.
SIMON: At this point the Cavs and Warriors have played each other so much. I mean, they probably know what kind of dental floss they use, right?
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Waxed mint.
SIMON: See - see, I told you you'd know everything. What are you going to be watching for in the next few games?
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Close, intense games, the kind of games we've all been moaning about not having so far in the NBA playoffs - you know, the Warriors haven't lost a game in the postseason, winning by an absurd average of 16.3 points per game. The Cavs, of course, lost one game to Boston. But they're winning average is nearly...
SIMON: Boo-hoo-hoo (ph) - go ahead, yeah.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Their winning average...
SIMON: That was just to get it out of the way when they reach the...
GOLDMAN: Exactly, to give people something to get excited about.
GOLDMAN: Their winning average is nearly 15 points. So the hope and the expectation is to see the two best teams finally have to battle. Something else to get excited about, scoring - according to cleveland.com, the Cavs and the Warriors are the only teams in NBA history to score at least 100 points in all of their playoff games this postseason. So really, that makes defense that much more important. Which juggernaut team can slow down the other juggernaut team?
SIMON: All right, let me point out something. Obviously...
SIMON: ...Golden State improved themselves in the offseason by getting Kevin Durant. On the other hand, LeBron James has never been better.
SIMON: So who's got the edge?
SIMON: And I'm going to sing "Cleveland Rocks" while you answer, but go ahead.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) A little background, yeah. Who has the edge? Yeah, I mean, you figure Golden State - Golden State, you know, Las Vegas says Golden State. But, you know, as you say, Lebron - Golden State, as I said, defense will play a part, a big part. And defensively, the edge has to be with the Warriors. For all their high-flying offense, they have a very active, tough defense. And it's been on display in the playoffs.
The Cavs, on the other hand, were maligned during the regular season for their defensive problems. They appear to have fixed those in the playoffs, although they haven't played the best competition. So if Cleveland shows signs of the problems evident in the regular season, that'll be a big problem against such an explosive offensive team as Golden State.
SIMON: What about the indefinable ingredient? The Warriors have all the tools, all the assets. But their coach, Steve Kerr, is out on sick leave.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. And on Thursday, just a couple of days ago, Warriors general manager Bob Myers said, at this point, Steve Kerr is not ready to coach. He's still dealing with symptoms due to spinal cord fluid leaking. It started after back surgery in 2015. And the symptoms can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears. The question is, if he can't be on the bench for the finals, how significant is his absence? Assistant Mike Brown has done a great job guiding the team through the playoffs without a loss. But the Warriors and Brown really haven't been tested. How will he respond when the pressure is on and the games are tight? He has finals coaching experience, but Kerr is so special to this team...
GOLDMAN: ...His understanding of how it plays, how it communicates. And, you know, he's such a calm presence on the sidelines, so that will be something to watch.
SIMON: French Open...
SIMON: Djokovic - (imitating choking) Djokovic and Nadal...
GOLDMAN: Joker (laughter).
SIMON: ...The Cavs and Warriors, if you please, of the men's tour. And of course, on the women's tour Serena Williams is out of the picture, probably giving birth to another future champion.
SIMON: But what do you see?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, of course Federer isn't there. He's missing because he's chosen to skip the entire clay court season. I'm looking to see those guys you mentioned but also some new guys - Dominic Thiem, 23 from Austria; a 20-year-old from Germany, Alexander Zverev; and on the women's side, a lot of players we haven't heard of because we've just been so focused on Serena. All great players, but for the casual fan it's going to take some getting used to - Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elina Svitolina, players like that. It'll be more of a free-for-all.
SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott.
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