TNT commentator Mike Fratello, “the czar,” was at the top of his game in analyzing the Oklahoma City Thunder's 133-123 triple-overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
Fratello, a former NBA coach — including two years with the Grizzlies — pointed out numerous strategic moves by both teams in the thrilling “instant classic” and even used his telestrator a few times. The four-hour game started on TBS after the Heat-Celtics game went into overtime.
Fratello agreed with TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley that the winner of Game 4 would win the series as the Thunder regained the home-court advantage.
Fratello noted how the Thunder's offense stagnated late in the game as its lead dwindled.
“You must get into your plays sooner,” he said. “Get it (the ball) up quickly so you have a chance to make more passes.”
When Grizzlies guard Mike Conley hit a 3-point shot to tie the game with 3 seconds left, Fratello noted that Thunder center Kendrick Perkins should have fouled him before he got his shot off and Conley would have had only two foul shots. Play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton also noted that the Perkins missed two free throws that would have made it a two-possession game.
Grizzlies' guard Greiveis Vasquez then sent the game into double overtime with an off-balanced 3-pointer.
“That looks more like a throw than a shot,” Fratello said.
In the third overtime, Kevin Durant's 3-point shot gave the Thunder a commanding 131-123 lead.
“That may be the dagger in what truly has been a war of attrition,” play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton said.
After the marathon game, sideline reporter Marty Snider interviewed Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
“Playing games like this is what you live for,” Durant said.
Westbrook, who scored 40 points, said: “I've been getting a lot of heat lately, man. I just wanted to come out and play my game.”
*TNT's “Inside Trax” segments brought some interesting comments from both coaches addressing their teams. Entering the fourth quarter, Thunder coach Scott Brooks told his team: “Twelve minutes of your best basketball effort wise. The shot is going to fall. All we got to do is defend for 12 minutes and we win this game. That's what we come here for is to win one game.”
*TNT's halftime show turned into a Grizzlies' lovefest with analyst Kenny Smith noting that Barkley “loved” the team and then called the Grizzlies the most versatile team left in the playoffs. That was a glowing statement about an eighth seed.
“They can beat you in more ways than anyone else left,” he said. “They can play up-tempo. They can slow the ball down and play pick and roll. Then my man Zac Randolph (is) the best in the business at scoring in the post.”
*Game 5 on Wednesday night will be the 1,000th NBA playoff broadcast for TNT in the network's 27th year of covering the league. Stockton, Fratello and Snider will call the game.