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Round 1 of the NBA playoffs features games with intriguing storylines

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Tonight's pro basketball playoff games feature intriguing storylines, including an NBA series that may be altered by a broken finger. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is covering the story.

Hey there, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi. Your finger expert here. Yeah.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Exactly, exactly. Careful about which finger. But which series and whose finger?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) It is the fractured tip of the left index finger belonging to Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox, who was launched into stardom this season and in a riveting first-round playoff series going on right now versus the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Problem is, Steve, his left hand is his shooting hand, and if he plays - and he says he's determined to do so - that left finger could affect his performance. And he is the engine of a very talented Sacramento team.

INSKEEP: So we've got an all-California series here - Golden State, Sacramento. How big is Game 5 in this best-of-seven series?

GOLDMAN: Big. The series is tied 2-2. It is balanced on this symbolic edge between Sacramento proving it's an exciting new team to be reckoned with and Golden State's dynasty possibly faltering. The Warriors have won four NBA titles in the last eight years, but in this series, even when they've won, they've been pushed to the brink, especially Sunday's Game 4. It had the biggest TV audience for a first-round playoff game in more than 20 years. Golden State won by a point and survived some uncharacteristic mental mistakes near the end that almost cost them the game. Tonight's game is in Sacramento, where the Kings have been dominant. Golden State has been terrible on the road this season. And they'll need to use all their championship DNA to get a win, which may be made easier by that broken finger.

INSKEEP: Aren't there some other injuries that are having an effect on the playoffs?

GOLDMAN: Miami lost two top players to season-ending injuries, although that hasn't slowed down the Heat, mainly because Jimmy Butler has been phenomenal. Butler had 56 points in the last Miami win.

INSKEEP: Wow - 56 points, that kind of scoring makes me think of your sportswriting, Tom Goldman. I want people to know if they don't - you're saying goodbye today. Is retirement the word, by the way? Or is it you're stepping back? What are you doing?

GOLDMAN: Well, like Serena Williams, I guess I'm evolving.

INSKEEP: Gotcha. OK.

GOLDMAN: I'm going to be evolving. Yeah.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm going to miss you. Tom Goldman has covered Super Bowls. He's covered soccer. He's covered women's sports of all kinds and also the stories that we're about to hear a couple of clips of. Here's the beginning of a report from the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where, Tom, you got a story out of the McDonald's in the press center cafeteria at every Olympics.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GOLDMAN: The Mickey D's (ph) always have friendly natives to serve up a double cheeseburger and Coke, but I have never encountered a McDonald's greeter.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hello, sir. Welcome.

GOLDMAN: Hi. Thank you.

Nor have I ever seen the counter help, a dozen strong, break into a well-rehearsed cheer.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Clapping, singing in non-English language).

INSKEEP: (Laughter) There's also a story here of your feature with Jack LaLanne, the exercise guru who helped you, I guess, work off that McDonald's. You talked with him when he was, I think, 89, and he got you exercising by standing up from your chair.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JACK LALANNE: Don't use your hands. Sit down. Stand up. Now, get your buttocks only about a half-inch off the chair. You feel that, don't you?

GOLDMAN: Yes, I do.

INSKEEP: Tom, do you plan to follow that routine when you step away?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) No. I don't. I'm going to relax. OK, sure, I'll stand up and sit down every now and then, Steve. But I'm going to relax. I will say in parting, I have really enjoyed talking to you over the years. Now I'm going to shut up, and you can keep going.

INSKEEP: Thank you. Thank you for your decades of service and for making us better. Really appreciate that.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

INSKEEP: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's 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.

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