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Sports: Playoff Time In The NBA


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon and any time I get a little low I think, hmm, time for sports.


SIMON: Intense Heat can't slow the Pacers. How do you like that new cliche? We're deep into the NBA playoffs. Also last night, the WNBA season began. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Hi there, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Don't the Indiana Pacers know they're supposed to be losing? They won last night.

GOLDMAN: Just the opposite. The Pacers are wondering, rightly so, why they're not up two nothing in the series instead of tied 1-1. As you say, they won 97-93. You know, of course they had Game 1 in their hands, let it slip away due to some end of game mistakes that made it easier for LeBron James to score the winning layup.

Last night another fantastic game, a back and forth slugfest, James doing his usual unearthly things on a basketball court. The TV announcers were calling him superman. And then stunningly, superman stumbled twice near the end, threw away a couple of passes and Indiana won by four.

SIMON: Yeah. Do you see Indiana winning four, though? I mean, it's one thing to surprise the heat and maybe they've done that for a couple of games, but can they get four victories under their belt?

GOLDMAN: You know, they were in this situation last year, Scott, when they were up 2-1. They won one of the first two games in Miami and then they went up 2-1, and then LeBron James woke up and Miami roared back. But really, before I give you any prognostications, Scott, I want to mention a study I happened upon this week.

A couple of Washington State University graduate students in economics found that for sports pundits, it's more important to be confident than accurate in making predictions.


GOLDMAN: Bear with me on this one. They found that a pundit's Twitter following increased much more if the pundit used confidence words like vanquish or destroy or annihilate in his or her predictions.

Now, the percentage increase in followers was much smaller if the pundits were merely accurate. I think, you know, basically we want more certainly in our life, and not uncertainty. So you ask can Indiana win four straight? Scott, I am very confident in saying I have no idea. This one is...

SIMON: Twitter following is eh.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, right. This one is totally up for grabs, but as I say, I feel very confident about my uncertainty. My Twitter following, I believe, just doubled, just doubled to ten.

SIMON: That's not hard, exactly yes. The WNBA season began last night. The first three draft picks from this year's draft are expected to have a big impact. What's the league look like to you?

GOLDMAN: The future looks pretty darn bright. In fact, one NBA owner told me this season could mark a major turning point for the league, perhaps as dramatic as when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird entered the NBA 30-plus years ago. And a big reason is, as you mention, those first three draft picks. Superstars in college, they're expected to make waves in the pros.

You've got 6"8' center Brittney Griner. She went to Phoenix. She's going to play with a fantastic guard, Diana Taurasi. You've got the Number 2 pick, 6"5' Elena Delle Donne going to Chicago. And then Skylar Diggins, the popular point guard at Notre Dame now plays for Tulsa. They're being called three to see, and should be exciting.

SIMON: Tom, every now and then we get reminded about some of the light that sports can shed in our lives and your family suffered a loss this week. I want to get you to share a story with us.

GOLDMAN: My wife's father died this week. Trevor Greenhalgh lived in the north of England, a kind and caring man and a big sports fan. He would teach me the intricacies of cricket when I visited. I would reciprocate with baseball when he came here to the U.S. And he provided me with one of my most memorable sports moments.

He was a Manchester City fan in soccer. He took me to a game once and at halftime we were sitting in the stands and I had to use the restroom and he said, no, just wait a minute, stay here. So I stayed. And suddenly the PA announcer said we'd like to welcome a guest from the United States, Tom Goldman. And it was hilarious because there was actually a smattering of applause.

But anyway, my mouth dropped open. I looked at him. He was grinning like a Cheshire Cat. He set the whole thing up. So now Scott, that I have a microphone, I'd like to pay tribute to Trevor Greenhalgh, a great sports fan and a wonderful man, and I'm going to miss him.

SIMON: Oh all right. Well, thank you for telling us that. Bless him and best to your family, my friend.

GOLDMAN: Thanks a lot.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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 NPR.org.
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