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Fans Riveted By NBA Conference Playoff Games


The NBA is halfway through two riveting conference final playoff series, and there's absolutely no indication how they're going to turn out. Last night in Boston, the aging and creaky Celtics proved that they are really a match for the star-studded Miami Heat. Boston beat Miami 93 to 91 in overtime to tie the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece. In the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder also are tied 2-2, and they play tonight in San Antonio.

Joining me now is NPR sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Good morning, Tom.


GREENE: Wow. Last night in Boston, I mean, it just felt like one of those classic old Eastern Conference slug fests. I mean, two of the stars, LeBron James from the Miami Heat and Paul Pierce from the Celtics, they foul out. I mean, you have this big Boston lead evaporate. What are we learning from the series so far?

GOLDMAN: Well, what we learned, the things you just mentioned happened, and the odds are, there will be no carry over to game five tomorrow night in Miami. These conference finals have been riveting for fans, and a little bit embarrassing for people like me who yap about the games. Many experts figured the Celtics were done after Miami won the first two games with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade having their way and getting important contributions from their teammates.

We also gushed about San Antonio's precision offense and strong defense, and basically guaranteed a fifth NBA title since 1999. And our course, David, Boston and Oklahoma City have roared back, tied the series, and I hereby refuse to talk anymore about trends unless, of course, you ask, and I'd be happy to guess.

GREENE: Of course I'll ask. I mean, what - anything you can talk about that will avoid embarrassing you on the radio.


GOLDMAN: I think it's clear that these are four excellent teams who can adjust after a loss and make the next game much closer or come out with a victory. I think it's also clear that home court advantage is an important factor. The home team has won all eight games in these conference finals. If the series go the distance, games sevens are in Miami and San Antonio.

And one other trend in Boston's favor, even though the Celtics don't have home court advantage, Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen played very well last night. He looked like the Ray Allen of old. He's been hobbled by injuries, but his apparent return to form could be an x-factor for Boston - could.

GREENE: All right. We'll see if those predictions hold up. Let's turn our crystal ball to golf, talking about predictions. I mean, just when we all thought Tiger Woods was pretty much done.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, he's back, at least yesterday. He won the Memorial, a tournament in Ohio founded by Jack Nicklaus, which is fitting, because the day was all about Tiger and Nicklaus. The win tied Tiger with Jack for second place on the career PGA tour victories list at 73, and it rekindled talk that Tiger may still be able to beat Jack's all-time record of 18 major wins. Tiger Woods has 14. The U.S. Open starts in 10 days. Suddenly Tiger is the hot pick.

GREENE: And, Tom, before we let you go, we should say we've learned that we're heading into the London Olympics beginning next month, without one of the brightest stars for the United States from four years ago.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. American gymnast Shawn Johnson is retiring at the ripe old age of 20.


GOLDMAN: She won a gold medal in the balance beam and three silvers at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and she became this fan favorite with her big smile and bubbly personality. But then she injured a knee in a ski accident in 2010, and she never fully recovered, certainly not enough to try to qualify for London.

GREENE: Well, Tom Goldman, one thing we can always count on I guess is you'll be here to talk sports with us. It's NPR sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Thanks, Tom.

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

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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.