My favorite questions from my Power Lunch live chat today. Good questions and discussion.
Q: Who wins tonight and why?
A: The Thunder has more good players, and the best player, and it’s playing at home. Hard to pick against.
Q: What do you think the biggest adjustment will be for the Thunder in Game 2?
A: Dealing with LeBron guarding KD more; 2) Re-activating Serge Ibaka; 3) Re-activating James Harden. The Heat’s defensive intensity just has to increase, and Harden will be essential. The Heat has no answer for Westbrook. None.
Q: I know you guys rub elbows with national media types all the time, but are there ever guys in town where you catch yourself being a little awestruck?
A: Not by the national media. More with our city. Truth-telling time: I grew up just outside a major-league city (Baltimore) and spent my early career in OKC longing to get back to a big-league town. There’s just a buzz and excitement that you can’t quite describe, you have to experience. And now we’re in it.
What’s really rewarding is that we’ve been telling the story of this town’s rise for a long time. We’ve been telling the story of its love-at-first-sight with the NBA, and now it’s right here, on Reno. That’s the awestruck moment.
I like Stephen A. Smith. Nice guy. I got to meet Bill Plaschke of the LA Times a couple weeks ago and I can’t say enough about what a quality guy he and the other Laker writers seem to be. It’s always neat to meet new, good people who share your passion for something. But the pinch-me moments for us are really seeing what’s happening to our community.
Q: Do you think if LeBron is unhappy, it’s due to the prospect of losing this series, or is it the prospect of KD passing him as the country’s top NBA superstar, eclipsing both him and Kobe?
A: Put yourself in LeBron’s shoes: You left your hometown for the stated purpose of giving yourself a better chance to win a championship, and he probably is a step closer. I think he expected to be better than closer. I think he expected the Heat to be the Showtime Lakers and it’s not happening, mostly because they’ve got no money to surround him with supporting players who aren’t old or limited.
Take a look at their bench. It’s a wreck. That — and the weight of the expectations of his own making — is what’s he’s wearing around like a milestone. But I think the KD stuff is probably a minor part. He’s gotta be thinking: That used to be me. Carefree, beloved, having fun and on the fast-track to basketball immortality.
Q: Is Harden’s lackluster performance reason for Thunder fans to have confidence? The Sixth-Man of the Year didn’t play well, but the team still won.
A: Absolutely. It seems like there’s something like that every game. The Thunder’s free throw shooting is bad and it still wins. In the San Antonio series, Westbrook was off offensively and the Thunder wins in 6. This team is layered. And it doesn’t have this in-game drama crap that Miami has: Who will take over.
The Thunder’s approach: Play ball. Let the game, matchups and feel dictate that.