Saturday Sports: NBA Playoffs And Major League Baseball

Apr 21, 2018
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Don't despair about the world. It's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Red Sox are red-hot. We're about halfway through everyone's least favorite round of the NBA playoffs. But first, Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Any NBA games worth watching before the Cleveland Cavaliers come roaring back to take everything?

BRYANT: (Laughter) You know, Scott, I was wondering how long it was going to take for you to mention the Cleveland Cavaliers. I don't know. I got to tell you. I think that this might be it for the reign of King James. LeBron James has been to the NBA finals every year since 2011. His team is really not that good this year. And they lost a game last night. They should have won to Indiana. They're down 2-1. Obviously, nobody would bet against LeBron. But if it's going to happen that he's - you don't win every single year. This one very well may be the year. They're not the best team. They're not playing particularly great. And he's looking like he did during his first reign in Cleveland, which is he's really, really good. But everybody else isn't that good.

SIMON: But Cleveland rocks. Listen. Houston and the Warriors seem to be on cruise control. And, of course, Steph Curry is coming back. But what about Philadelphia and New Orleans?

BRYANT: Well, that's the fun part of this, Scott - is that you - for the first time in a long time, you start to see a team in the post season - usually the first round is the one you fall asleep on. But the Philadelphia 76ers are looking like the very best team in the Eastern Conference right now - not just maybe for this post season. But certainly next year and the following years, they're going to be a team to reckon with. I think that in the Western Conference, yes, it is no question that the matchup everybody wants to see is Houston versus Golden State. The Warriors have been the best team in the league for the last three years and - the last four years now. And I think that the Rockets have been built to beat them. So this is the matchup.

However, just like Philadelphia in the East, I really like New Orleans with Anthony Davis. And you're starting to see that team play really, really well. They're up 3-0 on the Portland Trailblazers. And so it's not as boring a first round as it used to be. I think there are some teams if you're a big NBA fan - and the NBA has had a great season this year - that there's a lot to look forward to. And it's not just ho-hum waiting to see if it's going to be LeBron and the Cavaliers against Golden State like the last couple of years.

SIMON: So the baseball season opened. Red Sox lost opening day. And almost not since, they're 17 and 2. How are they doing it?

BRYANT: Well, they're doing it because they're hitting the ball. I remember last year, after David Ortiz retired, the Red Sox couldn't score. That's one thing that you never would think - that team playing in Fenway Park, that they weren't going to be able to score runs. Well, this year they're scoring lots of runs. And they've got a 66 - or 68-run differential in terms of runs scored versus runs given up. And they are - they're doing it with pitching. They're doing it with everything.

And I think that this is actually sort of fun because at the end of last season you were thinking Dodgers. You were thinking Astros. You were thinking the Yankees came a game away from making the World Series. The Red Sox lost to Houston last year in the first round of the playoffs. So now you've got three, four, five teams that are actually going to really be in there and a resurgent Red Sox, resurgent Yankees, world champion Astros - pretty fun stuff.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.