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.”
Van Gundy excellent
Van Gundy wrapped up the series with his usual strong performance, showing why he is the league's most entertaining game analyst. Some of his comments:
-- On starting the game with a coin flip instead of a jump ball. “I think they should have a coin flip like the NFL does. You can receive or you can let the other team.”
-- On the Thunder's porous defense as the Heat built a 17-point lead in the second quarter. “They got to get their defense together. Too many mistakes have led to too many open opportunities.”
-- He supported Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's decision to play Mike Miller with four fouls. When play-by-play announcer Mike Breen said Miller's might stiffen up, he said, “Forget his back. I don't want his arm to stiffen up.”
-- Disagreeing with a flagrant foul being called on Derek Fisher on James. “C'mon, man,” he said. “It's a hard foul because LeBron is coming at you at 100 mph.”
-- After James was called for a foul on an apparent Harden flop, he repeated his contention that the NBA should crack down on flopping. “I can't wait for the commissioner to attack it.”
-- Breen on the Heat's strong second half: “What an onslaught by Miami. An incredible offensive performance.”
-- As in the first four games, Barry was the only studio analyst to pick the Thunder to win. “I got plenty of room on my Sooner Schooner to get back to OKC if you guys want to get on board,” he said.
-- ABC showed Brooks addressing his team in the locker room before the game. “I want you guys to think of only one thing: Do whatever it takes to make your teammates look good. If you have an opportunity and have a layup, give it to your teammate for a layup.”
-- On the “Thunder Live” postgame show, Fox Sports Oklahoma analyst Stephen Howard said the Thunder can learn a lot from the loss and the playoff run. “I liked what I saw from this team. They never buckled.”