Two games after Magic Johnson said Thunder guard Russell Westbrook turned in the worst half of point guard play in NBA Finals history, Westbrook earned an apology of sorts from Johnson after his 43-point effort in Game 4 Tuesday night.
“Russell Westbrook was amazing,” Johnson said. “Maybe I got to apologize to him. He has to play this way to give them a chance to win. Maybe it was my fault judging him as a point guard because he's a scoring point guard. He played a fabulous game. The problem is James Harden has not produced in this series.”
Commentator Stephen A. Smith offered a stronger apology to Westbrook. “Let me offer this man a national apology right here on national TV,” he said, noting Westbrook picked up the slack because of offensive struggles by Kevin Durant and Harden. “Durant didn't want it bad enough and James Harden didn't decide to show up.”
Game analyst Jeff Van Gundy said Westbrook silenced his critics that he shot too much and credited Thunder coach Scott Brooks for standing behind him. With a shot of Westbrook's parents celebrating in the stands, Van Gundy said, “He (his dad) loved it. Who's shooting too much now?”
Analyst Jon Barry went so far as to say that Harden's poor play cost the Thunder the game.
“He had some great looks. He turned the ball over four times. If James Harden played like he has all season, we'd be talking about a 2-2 series tonight, without question.”
Johnson said Harden should have dunked the ball on his breakaway that resulted in a missed layup.
Barry said the Thunder's weak 3-point shooting (3-of-16) and interior play also played a big part in the loss. “The Thunder is being out-toughed by the Miami Heat in the paint,” he said, crediting Chris Bosh's play.
LONG CRITICIZES OFFENSE
On Fox Sports Oklahoma's “Thunder Live,” analyst Grant Long criticized the Thunder's impatient offense for blowing a 17-point lead in the second quarter. “So many quick shots. One shot, one pass, one shot.”
Long said the Heat's strategy was to let Westbrook score and shut off the rest of the team. “They let it happen and stayed home on the other players,” he said.