One had to wonder what game ESPN/ABC studio analyst Bill Simmons was watching. In discussing the Thunder's 93-91 victory at halftime of the Pacers-Knicks' telecast, he said, “If I'm a Memphis fan, I feel fantastic about how that game went. You blew the game, but the matchups were so favorable to them.”
Studio analyst Michael Wilbon wasn't so sure.
“When you give away a game in the playoffs, sometimes you can't recover. I know (Kevin) Durant was great. But they get a game when Serge Ibaka misses nine out of 10 shots, Kendrick Perkins misses five of six shots and you don't steal that game …”
Magic Johnson said he was glad the Thunder didn't take a timeout before Durant's game-winning shot.
“You got the best player in the building with the ball in transition. Let him go for it and he gets a shot.”
Although the studio crew acknowledged it was a bad foul by Reggie Jackson on Quincy Pondexter's late three-point shot, “You never see the guy make all three of these in this situation,” Jalen Rose said. “We we're all saying no chance.”
ESPN/ABC's No. 2 broadcast team of Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown, in turning in their usual solid performance, gave the Thunder a lot of credit down the stretch.
Praising Durant for a game in which he scored 35 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists, Brown said, “Not enough praise for what he has done in this game and he has done it with ease. He has not forced anything.”
Brown pointed out how he was fading to his left on jump shots to give himself extra space. “It opens up the area for him and his shooting percentage in the paint has been outstanding.”
Brown credited the Thunder defense for its play down the stretch, noting key deflections by Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha that forced turnovers.
“They made things happen for themselves. They did a terrific job.”
Neither Brown nor the studio crew thought that Nick Collison should have been called for a flagrant one for his hard foul on Tayshaun Prince as he attempted to block the shot. Collison even tried to catch Prince on his fall.
Simmons: “The Oscar race is on. … best supporting actor.”
Rose: “He never got elbowed in the head and his head never hit the ground.”
Brown: “I'm kind of surprised by that, but we all know this is going to be a very difficult series to referee, mainly because you have got shot blocking on both teams, you have physical guys here and defenses that rotate quickly and are very well prepared.”
*Brown noting improved play by Jackson after he drove in a for a layup: “This young fella really has speed, good ball-handling ability, excellent knowledge of when to put the brakes on in the paint, the ability to stop on a dime and then send up a soft shot in traffic.”
*Tirico's call on Durant's game-winning shot: “The shot clock is off. The Thunder will keep it on the floor with a chance to take the lead. Durant, the lead!”
*Brown said he was excited to get to call the game. “It's a great series. It's X's and O's, the players are there and it will get better as it goes along.”
*TNT will broadcast Game 2 at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday with Matt Devlin, analyst Mike Fratello and reporter Marty Snider. Fox Sports Oklahoma also will have pregame and postgame coverage.