Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy lived up to their billing Friday night as ABC/ESPN's top broadcast team during Game 3 of the Thunder-Lakers series.
Both did a good job of analyzing the Lakers' 99-96 victory that went down to Kevin Durant's 3-point miss in the final seconds.
On the final segment, Breen said, “Durant has it. Durant fires a 3. In and out.”
Van Gundy noted the Thunder fouled the Lakers too much, especially Kobe Bryant. When Bryant got Russell Westbrook off his feet in drawing a foul, he said, “That's why you got to stay down on the shot fake. You got to make him hit the shot.”
Breen marveled at the clutch free-throw shooting by both teams.
The pair had strong opinions on a variety of topics, including Harden. Van Gundy said he deserved a spot on the U.S. Olympic team: “He already knows how to play off the bench in a specific role. He's versatile. He can handle the ball like a point guard on pick-and-roll situations. He can spot up. And he has size. He's bigger than you think.“
On the scuffle between Russell Westbrook and Metta World Peace, both thought Westbrook overreacted and Peace didn't deserve a technical. “The double technical is the biggest cop out ever in officiating,” Van Gundy said.
Interviewed by Lisa Salters at the end of the first half, Kobe Bryant called the incident “just good playoff basketball” and said the physical play “feels good, like a spa.”
When Jack Nicholson got on his feet to scream at the officials, Van Gundy noted he was careful never to stand in Nicholson's way when he coaches. “I didn't want him to yell ‘Code Red' on Van Gundy,” he said, referring to Nicholson's role as a colonel in “A Few Good Men.”
On playing Games 3 and 4 on back-to-back nights, Van Gundy called it a travesty that should never happen in the playoffs. “It's not right for the NBA when you're trying to put the best possible product on the floor,” he said.
ESPN's crew of Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson, Jon Barry and Chris Broussard critiqued both teams. Broussard noted the Lakers had played well with 14 assists on 16 baskets, but led by only three points. He noted the Thunder's explosiveness and called them “a great fourth-quarter team. If I'm the Lakers, I want to get a little more cushion.”
Johnson said the pace in the second half would determine the outcome. “If it's an up-and-down pace, the Thunder wins. If it's a slower pace, it's for the Lakers.”
Barry complimented Harden: “He came in and settled things down.”
*ESPN noted the hectic schedule at the Staples Center with six games in four days among the NBA's Lakers and Clippers and the NHL's Kings. Salters noted that the concession stands had stocked up with 21,600 hot dogs, 6,000 bags of peanuts, 2,200 caramel apples, 1,100 kegs of beer and 2,100 chicken wings. After Van Gundy said he didn't understand the lure of caramel apples, Breen said, “The kids love them. You were never really a kid.”
*Van Gundy noted that the network doesn't play the best comments during the “Wired” segments. He said the network should start a new “ABC/TruTV channel” that would include all the salty comments. “Now people would pay for that.”
*Breen complimented Derek Fisher's leadership skills and noted he occasionally addresses the team after practices and games. “Brooks can't believe how unbelievable his postgame speeches are.”
*Van Gundy on Westbrook. “He's a worker. When you're a worker, good things happen”