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The NBA Finals are set: Boston is the odds-on favorite to win this year’s title

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The NBA Finals are set. It's the Celtics against the Mavericks. Earlier this week, the Celtics swept Steve Inskeep's beloved Indiana Pacers.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

I'm still with them, A. With them in victory, with them in defeat. Still...

MARTÍNEZ: Nice.

INSKEEP: ...With the Pacers. Anyway...

MARTÍNEZ: You're going to have to be with them in the offseason because it began already.

INSKEEP: True.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, last night, Dallas finished off the Minnesota Timberwolves four games to one.

INSKEEP: Which is not what friend-of-the-show Jesse Washington said would happen when I spoke with him last week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JESSE WASHINGTON: You could book it 4-2. I got the Wolves over the Dallas Mavericks. The Timberwolves, for the first time, will go to the NBA Finals.

INSKEEP: Man. There he is. That was his prediction.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. It's like my old sports radio days, Steve. Putting people on the spot like that. Jesse Washington is back with us now from ESPN's Andscape. Jesse, what do you got to say for yourself?

WASHINGTON: Hey, man, I thought this was my friends over here, man. To quote Cam'ron, who booked me for this interview?

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

WASHINGTON: But in all seriousness...

INSKEEP: I just want to stop and say he was right about the Celtics and the Pacers. You said the Celtics were going to dominate. Close games, good games, but they swept them. Go on, guys.

WASHINGTON: OK. Yeah. So I'm shooting 50% from the field on my predictions. I'll take it. You know, the Mavericks are just astounding everyone now with the play of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. We knew they were great, but this great, just torching the league's best defense in the said Timberwolves, just doing whatever they wanted and having their way with them. Luka 20 points in the first quarter last night to pack them boys up and send them home.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

WASHINGTON: It's pretty amazing. I was wrong. I'm looking forward to watching them against the Celtics.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Does that Dallas backcourt - I mean, they're great. They're one of the best backcourts I've seen in a long time. Do they have any chance to beat Boston? Because Boston, from player one all the way down that roster, is as deep as it gets.

WASHINGTON: Yeah, I think they have a great chance, man. Luka Doncic is the best player in the world at this moment. He's still playing. He's cooking. Nobody can contain him. Boston has a couple of great defenders in Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, also Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They can switch one through four, maybe one through five. So if anybody can handle them, it's Boston. But you can't bet against Luka and Kyrie the way that they're playing right now.

MARTÍNEZ: And that's what I was going to ask you about because Kyrie Irving - I mean, he is a superstar, but when it comes to all the other names in this series, he's maybe second-tier superstar because of the bigger names. I mean, are you going to be watching him and - to see what he does?

WASHINGTON: Oh, absolutely. He's key. And for Dallas to have a chance, he's just got to continue playing at the level that he's been at. He's done it before. He's a champion. He's made shots that have won championships back with Cleveland. He knows how to play off a great player, having played with LeBron. And so Kyrie is absolutely a key. I expect him to rise to the occasion.

MARTÍNEZ: So, Jesse, I don't know much about anything in life, but I am 100% sure that Laker fans around the world do not want the Boston Celtics to win a championship, even if it means rooting for the Mavericks. The Lakers and Celtics are tied with 17 NBA championships. So I know the Lakers don't want the Celtics to be one up on them. Who do you think everyone else in the world will be rooting for in this series?

WASHINGTON: I feel like Dallas has got the people behind them, man. It's just there's too many good storylines there. You know, Luka out of Slovenia. This guy is amazing. We haven't seen a player like him in a long time. Kyrie is on a redemption tour - some strange behavior in the past. Now he's just hooping the way we want him to. You know, nobody really likes the green guys, man, especially me from Brooklyn, N.Y. So I think Dallas has the people behind them.

MARTÍNEZ: Jesse, I will try to make sure the next time you come on that Steve Inskeep does not undercut you, does not take your legs out when you're driving to the hoop.

WASHINGTON: Flagrant.

MARTÍNEZ: Jesse Washington, senior writer at ESPN's Andscape, thanks.

WASHINGTON: Thanks, guys. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.