The ESPN/ABC studio crew and game analyst Jon Barry had different opinions of what was to blame for the Thunder's Game 3 loss to Memphis on Saturday afternoon.
The studio crew, at halftime of the Knicks-Pacers telecast, thought the Thunder played Kevin Durant too many minutes, contributing to a disappointing fourth quarter when he inexplicably missed back-to-back free throws. Barry pointed a finger at Serge Ibaka's dismal shooting performance.
Studio analyst Jalen Rose noted that Durant led the Thunder in points, rebounds, assists, three-point attempts and free-throw attempts in Game 3.
“That's a lot of expectation,” he said.
Magic Johnson noted that Durant also had to guard Memphis center Marc Gasol for part of the game. “You're trying to guard a 7-footer who weighs, what 280 pounds and is putting all of that on Kevin Durant.”
The show included part of Thunder coach Scott Brooks' postgame interview in which he said Durant passed the ball a lot because he was doubled and tripled team and he trusted his teammates.
“You got to figure out a way to get him less minutes so he can more effective for you in the fourth quarter,” Johnson said. “I'm sorry coach (Brooks), nobody else can score for you. He (Durant) may trust all the guys, but they can't win the game for you.”
Johnson disputed the theory that Durant could play more minutes because he was young.
“You have to remember in a seven-game series, as a series goes on you get more and more physically tired. Emotionally you're up for the game, but you're putting a lot of energy into the game. When you ask Kevin Durant to score and guard Gasol, one of the best low-post players in the league, it's just too much to ask of Kevin Durant.”
Michael Wilbon noted other teams, such as the Chicago Bulls, had been overusing their players. “He (Brooks) has to get more than 14 ½ minutes out of (Nick) Collison. … There are those teams that develop their bench and talk about their depth.”
In the final minute of the game, Barry credited the Thunder's effort and then criticized Ibaka.
“I talked all night long about the offensive boards, the points in the paint, the fast-break points. OKC dominated in those areas. … They did a lot of good things, a lot of positive things, they were just not shooting the basketball like we've seen them do all season long.”
Barry singled out Ibaka, who was 6 of 17 from the field. “Serge Ibaka had a lot of quality shots tonight. He had five shots right at the rim. He had a ton of open jump shots. It's just a bad time to be struggling. He's got a lack of confidence right now. They need him to play like he has played all season long.”
-- After Thunder guard Reggie Jackson stole a ball and scored on a layup to cut Memphis' lead to 79-77 in the fourth quarter, play-by-play announcer Mark Jones said, “Reggie Jackson, introducing himself to Memphis.” Barry said, “Mr. October, no, no, Mr. May. … The second-year man is acting like he belongs.”
--At halftime, analyst Bill Simmons said he credited the Thunder for speeding up its offense, noting it had taken 49 shots. “If Oklahoma City can keep this up-and-down (pace), they have a chance to switch this series.”
-- On the pregame show, Simmons continues to make the point the Thunder made a bad move in trading James Harden in the preseason. He worked up a similar scenario in which the Los Angeles Lakers would have traded James Worthy to the Detroit Pistons for Kelly Tripucka, Tony Campbell and two first-round picks in 1984.
Asking Johnson if that would have been a good trade, Magic replied, “That would have been like two or three less diamond rings I would have had if that trade was made.
“You're trying to say Ibaka is going to be a star. He's never going to be a star. He's a good player on a great team.”