Despite another dominating win by the Thunder to even the Western Conference Finals at 2-2, only TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley is picking the Thunder to win the series. Studio analysts Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal are sticking with the Spurs, their original choices.
Barkley said the Thunder is “night and day” better with Serge Ibaka back in the lineup. “They beat them 4-zip for a reason,” Barkley said about the Thunder’s regular-season record against the Spurs.
He also noted the Thunder “has two nuclear weapons that can go off any given Sunday.”
O’Neal said the Spurs would prevail because of their home court advantage.
Smith said the Spurs’ two first two wins at home likely “got them over the hump” and they play well at home, especially the reserves.
The commentators had high praise for the “nuclear weapons” in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Smith said, “I thought overall this was the best game that they had played together.”
Barkley said: “They led this game with their energy tonight. It was beautiful to watch.”
Fox Sports Oklahoma studio analyst Nancy Lieberman said: “It might have been the best game of Russell Westbrook’s career. I though his floor management was absolutely priceless.”
However, Barkley criticized Thunder coach Scott Brooks for playing his stars “too many minutes” in a lopsided game and thought it might have an adverse effect on them in Game 5 on Thursday night.
GAME CREW RAVES
Game analyst Steve Kerr, the new coach of the Golden State Warriors, ranked Westbrook as the second-best player on the planet behind LeBron James: “When you see the explosiveness, it stands out in a league of incredible athletes. He’s like off the charts, this guy.”
Later he added, “To me this is the best game Russell Westbrook has played in his career.”
Game analyst Reggie Miller said Westbrook “is having one of those Swiss Army knife games,” referring to his versatility with 10 assists, five rebounds and five steals to go with his 40 points.
Play-by-play announcer Marv Albert noted that Westbrook was “unstoppable” on his drives. At which point, Miller referred to them as “California stops,” wondering “if he ever stops.”
•Kerr on what the Spurs need to do to win Game 5: “The only way you can beat Oklahoma City is with ball movement. But that message has got to get through in the next 48 hours.”
•Miller in discussing Jackson’s ankle injury noted: “No one is ever going to believe their medical reports anymore,” referring to Ibaka’s quick recovery.”
•Kerr on Thunder center Steven Adams: “Steven Adams looks like he’s going to be the starting center for the next decade.”
•Brooks to Lamb on an “Inside Trax”: “Relax, relax, relax. Be aggressive with the plays, relax.”
•Kerr on how he’s impressed with Brooks’ demeanor: “He has become poised and confident in what’s he doing.”
•Kerr on the Spurs having more turnovers than the Thunder midway through the second quarter: “San Antonio has to win the turnover battle because of the disparity in athleticism.”
•Brooks addressing his team at halftime. “Great half! Great half! … We have to come back with the same fire and intensity.”