With the Oklahoma City Thunder close to clinching its first playoff series victory, ESPN's broadcast team of Dave Pasch and Doris Burke gave a lot of credit to the architect, general manager Sam Presti, who was shown several times at his courtside seat.
“They have been patiently building this contender,” Burke said, noting Presti developed his blueprint from his experience in the San Antonio Spurs' front office. “They acquired pieces that are not only talented, but that fit together well and are committed to team.”
Burke, who ranks among the best basketball analysts — college or pro — noted Presti's “keen eye for talent” in drafting Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
“When you first saw Serge Ibaka come into the league, when you first saw Russell Westbrook come into the league, I don't think you could have known the kind of growth that both guys have experienced,” she said.
Burke noted Westbrook's improvement this season in becoming an all-star, including hitting 35 threes in the regular season. “If he gets to triple digits (in threes) like Derrick Rose, forget about it. I don't think you can guard him.”
Neither the ESPN nor the Fox Sports Oklahoma broadcast crews said they thought that Nuggets guard J.R. Smith was fouled by James Harden on his desperation 3-point shot in the closing seconds, although FSOK play-by-play announcer Brian Davis sounded like he was ready to announce a foul.
“Harden stays on him like white on rice. They are going to call … no foul. Thunder wins! Thunder wins! And they have a 3-0 lead.”
Pasch said, “J.R. Smith thought he was fouled, but it looked like good defense.”
* ESPN's “Wired” segment had some interesting close ups of Thunder coach Scott Brooks and Nuggets coach George Karl addressing their teams in the huddle. Early in the fourth quarter as the Thunder went on a run, Brooks said, “Get some stops here and we're going to make some shots. I feel good the rest of the quarter.”
* FSOK analyst Grant Long, in the second half, gushed about Ibaka's dominating performance. “It's been a block party. He has been all over the offensive glass and defensive glass. He said four or five weeks ago that defense was his business. And his business is on the road and it's thriving. A one-man wrecking crew.”
* Long said the Thunder used the loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round last season as motivation. “I thought they used the entire regular season as a dress rehearsal to try to erase that bitter taste in the loss in the playoffs out of their mouths.”
* Both ESPN studio analysts Jalen Rose and Chris Mullin picked Denver to win the game.
* After the game, ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe interviewed Kevin Durant and FSOK sideline reporter Kelly Crull talked with Ibaka.
* The Thunder could be in line to face the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round after they took a 2-1 lead in the series on the San Antonio Spurs. On that telecast, ESPN play-by-play announcer Terry Gannon was surprised that the Spurs did not call a timeout and Manu Ginobili failed to get a shot off in the final seconds of their 91-88 loss at Memphis. “You rarely see a team like this, a veteran team, fail to execute down the stretch,” he said.