Although the Thunder fell short in its first appearance in the NBA Finals, ABC studio analysts Magic Johnson and Jon Barry said the team can look ahead to a bright future.
Johnson, the former Lakers star guard, even went so far as to “guarantee” the Thunder will win a championship if the nucleus of the team is retained.
“I will guarantee this: If they stay together, they will win a championship, whether it's next season or the season after that,” he said. “They better keep Scott Brooks. He's a great coach and great for the guys.”
Barry, who picked the Thunder to win this year's finals, said it was likely the Thunder would be back in the finals next year. “We'll see what they learned and see if they can win it.”
Barry said the Thunder didn't look the same team that “ran roughshod” over the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks in earlier playoff series. “They did not play with a sense of confidence. James Harden struggled. A lot of guys didn't play like they had in previous games.”
However, he credited Miami's defense for slowing the Thunder's offense and the Heat's bench for outplaying the Thunder's reserves. “This is a defensive team they hadn't seen before,” he said.
Game analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who also picked the Thunder to win, said he didn't buy the argument that the team “wasn't experienced enough.”
“They just met up with another great team that just made two or three more plays in Games 2 to 4 than they did and unfortunately got hit with a haymaker tonight with all of those 3-point shots.”
Van Gundy complimented the Thunder's playoff run.
“They have a tremendous future in front of them,” he said. Noting new contracts must be worked out for Harden and Serge Ibaka, he said, “You hope their core isn't broken up because of finances.”
Among the best shots of the telecast was series MVP LeBron James jumping up and down in the closing minutes and poignant shots of Kevin Durant hugging his mother and brother and Thunder owner Clay Bennett hugging his players.
ABC also showed a late timeout of Brooks telling his players they had nothing to hang their heads about and that they needed to congratulate all the Heat players after the game. “They beat us fair and square,” he said. “Give them credit.”