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Sports Chat: NBA Playoffs Underway As Players Stay In Their 'Bubble'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's finally time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Championship seasons collide in their bubbles - hockey, basketball, probably even chess. Is there still anything like a home-court advantage? Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine. Thanks, my friend. Without crowds, familiar surroundings, is there anything such as home in these bubbles?

BRYANT: No, there's actually not. It's an interesting thing that when they were playing these play-in, qualifying seeding games, they really were just for matchups and not for home field or home court or home ice because there is no home field or home court or home ice because there are no fans, and there's no travel. And the one thing we're not going to have, which I was very surprised by in the National Hockey League, is we're going to have a new champion. This has been a really interesting playoff tournament because in all the sports - because it's not necessarily who the best team was before the shutdown. It's really which teams have adjusted to these new environments. And the St. Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins in game 7 last year and then just got demolished last night by the Vancouver Canucks. And so it's a real - it's funny because the Blues played that great hockey, you know, that great, really tough, wear-you-down hockey where they kind of beat you up for six games and then finish you off in the seventh like they did Boston. And this year, Vancouver just crushed them. And we'll have a new champion in the NHL this year.

SIMON: I mean, both the bubbles are in Canada - Edmonton and Toronto - but the Canucks happen to be the only Canadian team left. And...

BRYANT: And it's been a while. It's been - by my count, if I'm counting correctly - you've got to go back to the 1993 Montreal Canadiens before, you know, the last time you had a Canadian champion. And so Vancouver is a good team. Once again, very big surprise but really fast and tough, and so they're as good as anybody. Although Las Vegas is considered the best team, even though - in the west that is - even though they did beat your Chicago Blackhawks.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, my Canadian dollars are on the Canucks in these playoffs.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: The WNBA isn't yet at the playoffs. NBA playoffs are in the bubble in Orlando. The Celtics beat the 76ers last night. They lead that series three games to zero. They're looking pretty strong, aren't they?

BRYANT: They are. They are. And they're really not given that much of a chance considering that the Milwaukee - your fear-the-dear Bucks are considered the best team in the east. In Toronto, the...

SIMON: Hold on. Fear the deer. I knew I'd miss that, yeah.

BRYANT: And Toronto, the defending champions, without Kawhi Leonard are a really, really good team. And Boston not having Gordon Hayward makes you wonder if they've got what it takes. But they are great and they're playing really, really well. And it's going to be interesting to see if they can sort of battle along with these teams as you get further on. If the Celtics can close out Philadelphia, they'll play Toronto because Toronto is up on New Jersey. They're both up three nothing. And WNBA - it's sort of crazy. They're not in the playoffs yet. They're just in their season. And it's interesting watching the stars, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, both injured. And Sue Bird didn't play last night, and Seattle's nine-game win streak disappeared. The two champions - as we were talking about the Blues getting knocked out - the two champions that played last year, Connecticut and Washington, both of them really sort of struggling right now. But it's Las Vegas, LA, Seattle. They're the best teams right now, but it's early.

SIMON: OK. ESPN's Howard Bryant, talk to you soon. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.