The Week In Sports

Originally published on June 11, 2016 10:49 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

BJ Leiderman writes our theme music. And now it's time for his greatest hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Golden State Warriors we know, the guys who won all year, showed up last night to win Game 4 of the NBA finals. And hockey's Stanley Cup finals go to Game 6 tomorrow. And the game on ice lost a great legend this week. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now. Good morning, Tom. How are you?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott, doing well.

SIMON: Steve Kerr, the nicest man on Earth, called his team soft after they lost game three by 30 points. But last night, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson - well, you know what happened. They buried the Cavs in 3-pointers. Are they back?

GOLDMAN: I think so. And, you know, who you calling soft? Those pro-athletes don't like to be called soft.

SIMON: Sensitive, yes, sensitive, yes, but...

GOLDMAN: Sensitive, sensitive, but not soft, yeah. You know, the Warriors set an NBA final's record with 17 3-pointers of the game with the Splash Brothers, Curry and Thompson, as you mentioned, hitting 11 of the 17. But last night, in the 4th quarter, with the game hanging in the balance, the Warriors pulled away with defense, with rebounding, with hustle plays. They're not just a long-bombing team. They hit those long-range shots. But often it was beautiful ball movement that led to the 3-pointers.

SIMON: Steph Curry (laughter) - had - I was about to say he had three bad games. Well, that's not possible, is it? By any rational standard, he had three good games. They were just up to his usual standard...

GOLDMAN: Right.

SIMON: ...Even as the Warriors won 2-1. Were people a little quick to jump on him?

GOLDMAN: Oh, we love to jump on Steph.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: You know, there's this bias that he's just this three-point shooting machine, and he wilts against rough, physical defenses. Maybe we don't like him because he - the way he chews on his mouthguard. There was a lot of valid and hilarious criticism this week for his new signature basketball shoes. They're white and clunky-looking low tops. And they took a beating on Twitter.

But, you know, Scott, he is the, you know, two-time defending champion, Most Valuable Player Award winner. And expectations that go along with the award are very high. And you need to perform at a high level in the NBA finals. And so with all that swirling around him, he did. He performed. He didn't start scoring right away but, you know, he withstood the bumping and shoving as the Cavs gave him the pinball treatment. He passed to open teammates. And slowly he found his shooting rhythm, finished with a game-high 38 points. So he's OK.

SIMON: I understand no team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. And this would mean the Cavs would have to win two games in Oakland.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: But, you know, as I believe I've said before, Cleveland rocks.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) It does. And predictions are always risky in the NBA. You know, just look what happened with Game 2, a 30-point win for Golden State. Game 3, a 30-point win for Cleveland. So it's really hard to figure out. But as you mentioned, two of the last three games in Oakland and no team has ever come back. And, Scott, I asked my son point-blank last night, who is a Cavs fan, is it over? He said yeah, without hesitation. So I'm going to have to go with Max Goldman.

SIMON: (Laughter) The great philosopher. Stanley Cup finals Game 6 tomorrow, the Penguins are up 3-2 over the San Jose Sharks - San Jose come back?

GOLDMAN: That's largely up to Martin Jones. He's the San Jose goaltender who has a .933 save percentage. You may wonder what that means. That means it's very hard to score on him. And if he continues his tremendous play and the Sharks can find a way to score on their end - on the offensive end - yeah, we could be looking at a 7th winner-take-all game.

SIMON: Mr. Hockey died. Gordie Howe won four Stanley cups with the Detroit Red Wings, the league's MVP six times, played more games, more seasons than anyone, ever. This is really one of the greats.

GOLDMAN: Really was, a supremely skilled, versatile hockey player and a very tough guy. There was the Gordie Howe hat trick.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: A normal hat trick is a player scoring three times in a game. Gordie Howe hat trick was these three items - a goal, an assist and a fight. But off the ice, a humble and decent man. Our friend and colleague Don Gonyea, who loves all things Detroit, passed along a story. During the mid-1990s during a long newspaper strike in Detroit, Gordie Howe sold copies of his memoir to support the striking union members. So a lot to Gordie Howe. And, yes, hockey fans will miss him dearly.

SIMON: Yeah. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.