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Toronto Raptors End Cleveland Cavaliers' Playoff Winning Streak


Time now for sports.


MARTIN: And no, we're not going to talk about my tragic Ping-Pong loss to WEEKEND EDITION puzzle master Will Shortz that happened on Friday because Mike Pesca wants to talk about basketball. He, of course, hosts Slate's "The Gist" podcast. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE PESCA: I wanted to talk about Ping-Pong actually. I begged you to talk about Ping-Pong. But I know it's - the hurt is still raw.

MARTIN: It's too - the wound - the wound is not yet healed.


MARTIN: So, yeah, let's talk about real sports - no slight to table tennis players but, like, real sporting events...

PESCA: Yeah, yeah.

MARTIN: ...Because there's a lot of - there's a lot of news going around in the basketball world. There was a big game last night and there was kind of a surprise that happened.

PESCA: Right. It was a big game because it's a playoff game and we're in the conference finals. So that, by definition, is big. But when you looked at what Cleveland was doing, which was decimating opponents and sweeping the first two series and just crushing the Toronto Raptors in their first two games, you're saying to yourself - how big can this be? Let's get onto the conference finals where - I'm sorry, let's get onto the NBA Finals...


PESCA: ...Where, of course, Cleveland will be. But the Raptors - they came back. It's the first time the Raptors are in the conference finals. They beat Cleveland. And the reason...

MARTIN: Good for them.

PESCA: Good for them - I don't know that this means Cleveland is at all in any position to worry a bit. Teams oftentimes will, even after getting crushed in two games, gather together the first time on their home court and win. But I just want to call out the performance of DeMar DeRozan, had a great offensive game for the Raptors. But what Bismack Biyombo did, who - of course, we love the name Bismack Biyombo.

MARTIN: We do.

PESCA: This guy - 39 minutes, 26 rebounds - entering the fourth quarter, he had 1 point and 20 - I think 21 rebounds entering the fourth. And I said to myself, I've never seen anyone so dominate a game scoring a point. His - and he dominated his opposite number, the center of the Cavaliers, Kevin Love, a descendant of the Beach Boys. Biyombo's a descendant of Congo, speaks five languages.

MARTIN: Wow. Wow.

PESCA: Just - he's an incredibly athletic player. And the fact that he does it without scoring - it was amazing to see his energy on the court.

MARTIN: So great game, but can we just acknowledge - which I guess you already have - this is all about the Cavs and Golden State, right? I mean, can we just move on to the inevitability?

PESCA: I'm quite comfortable saying that about the Cavs. I mean, still to this point, you know, the Las Vegas odds have them something like 94 percent chance of winning the series. You can't really make money betting on the Cavs to win this series.

But, you know, Golden State lost Game 1 against the OKC Thunder. And if I - I do think that if the order of wins were different - if Golden State had won the first game, everyone would say, oh, that's what we expected. And then if OKC had won the second game coming into today's Game 3, we might be saying oh, maybe the Thunder have something going. But because that was a flip, I think what we do in our minds is we say, ah, this is the order. This is how things should be. Now, right, I'll tell - I mean, obviously Golden State won the most games of any NBA team in history. But they're not an unflawed team. And the Oklahoma City Thunder have two great players in Westbrook and Durant. And they could definitely win tonight. I would still say Golden State and Cleveland, quite likely to be the matchup in the finals.

MARTIN: OK. I guess I'll still watch. Mike Pesca, he's the host...

PESCA: You should, yes. It might be fun.

MARTIN: (Laughter) He's the host of "The Gist" on Slate. Hey, Mike, thanks as always.

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