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Hoops And World Soccer: The Week In Sports

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Finally, time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Another weekend filled to the brim in the Women's World Cup. The USA and Sweden played last night. We're still waiting for someone to score. And the NBA finals - all knotted up - but Golden State got its mojo back. Is it enough to vanquish my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers? That series resumes tomorrow in Oakland. NPR's Tom Goldman has been on the scene and joins us. Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: What's going on?

SIMON: Well, let's start with soccer - USA-Sweden.

GOLDMAN: OK (laughter).

SIMON: Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, right? Back and forth, back and forth - no score.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) You know, and I know a lot happens in a soccer match, even when it's a scoreless draw, but come on.

SIMON: Yeah, yeah.

GOLDMAN: Score some goals. The result was a disappointment to a lot of U.S. fans - not just for that - but they wanted the Yanks to throttle the Swedes after Swedish coach Pia Sundhage, a former U.S. coach, said some unflattering things about American players. But the U.S. at least got a point for the tie. Next up - Tuesday - Nigeria.

SIMON: And that's a - that's a big game. Let - can we go to the NBA now?

GOLDMAN: We can.

SIMON: You've been on the road in the - taking it back and forth between Oakland and Cleveland. Two straight games - Cleveland, down two major stars, seemed to bottle up Steph Curry and turn loose LeBron James as never before. How did Golden State get its groove back?

GOLDMAN: The Warriors got nervy and changed their starting lineup that had been so successful this season. They went small, in NBA terms, at least, putting in 6'6'' Andre Iguodala, taking out 7-foot center Andrew Bogut, and it worked. It put the zip back in the Warriors's step, which Cleveland had slowed to a crawl in games two and three. The story behind the go-small decision is interesting. A 28-year-old assistant to head coach Steve Kerr reportedly came up with it. Kerr bought in, and it might have saved the Warriors's season. Kerr has been allotted his first year coaching for his willingness to listen to his staff and embrace recommendations. This was a great example.

SIMON: This is a matchup we should remember of rookie head coaches. In fact, Steve Kerr tried to hire David Blatt as an assistant coach at Golden State before the season began.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: Look, Steve Kerr is one of the greatest guys in life, not just sports. And he's certainly - he's been making jokes with the press - even jokes about lying to them. David Blatt, not always considered so sunny. But does he deserve some credit for a game plan that worked wonderfully for a couple of games and for carrying a whole nation on his shoulders?

GOLDMAN: Yes to both, you know, and, remember, Blatt got criticized earlier in the playoffs because, you know, because he tried to call a timeout that didn't exist and, also, he tried to have LeBron James inbound a ball when LeBron James said, no, I'm going to receive the ball. So people saw it - oh, Blatt, you know, he's not as good of a coach. But the thing about carrying a foreign nation is funny - that nation is Israel. Blatt is a dual American-Israeli citizen. He played and coached in that country for many years. One Israeli reporter at the finals keeps asking Blatt if he has anything to say to the millions of Israelis staying up at night watching and rooting for Cleveland. And after the lopsided loss Thursday, the reporter asked again, what do you have to say to all the people who woke up in the middle of night in Israel? And Blatt said, and I'm quoting, "it's a hell of a thing to have on your conscious all the time. When I got 7 million people waking up and then feeling bad all day 'cause we didn't win, that's a heck of a thing to carry around all day." So it got some good laughs.

SIMON: Yeah, so quickly, do you see Cleveland coming back?

GOLDMAN: Oh, it's up to LeBron, Scott.

SIMON: Well, so is everything. Remember, Tom, all the little kids growing up on the skids say, Cleveland rocks. Thanks, NPR's Tom Goldman. Talk to you later.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) OK. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.