Despite the Thunder's loss in Game 5, Oklahoma City guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden made a big impression on ESPN's commentators, especially game analyst Jeff Van Gundy.
Van Gundy, a former Houston Rockets and New York Knicks coach, bestowed the fitting nickname of “Wild Thing” on Westbrook for his exciting and erratic play. After Westbrook spurted through the lane for a layup, Van Gundy said: “When the Wild Thing is on the move, he is hard to guard. That cut was explosive. And that finish was even more explosive.”
He later said Westbrook also had the physical skills to be on the NBA All-Defensive Team.
Game analyst Mark Jackson even broke into the song's lyrics in honor of Westbrook heading into a commercial break. “Putting on a clinic right now. Wild Thing, you make my heart sing. Russell Westbrook offensive explosion. Getting it done.”
Studio analyst Michael Wilbon marveled at his speed. “That's like Usain Bolt speed. I thought Bolt was in Rome, maybe not.”
Van Gundy also said he was president of the Harden fan club. “He's got great pace to his game. He never looks like he's in a rush.”
Van Gundy later noted he needs to become more consistent. “That's what he needs, the consistent desire to dominate. He can be dominant from a playmakers' standpoint and with consistent defense.”
Jackson said Harden should be starting right now, and studio analyst Magic Johnson called him “an explosive scorer off the bench and maybe the best passer on the Thunder team.”
*After the game, Jackson credited the Mavs for “the way they battled” in the face of many doubters. “They put together a team of castaways. They said Jason Kidd was too old, Shawn Marion was past his prime and Tyson Chandler was not good enough. They found a way to get it done.”
*Early in the game, Jackson criticized Thunder forward Serge Ibaka for “his matador defense” after Dirk Nowitzki drove past him for layups several times.
*Studio analyst Jon Barry credited the Thunder's effort, coming off the disappointing loss in Game 4. “Oklahoma City is a young team that didn't mail it in,” he said. “They are a team to be reckoned with for years to come.”
Wilbon said: “Dallas knows how to finish the game. Oklahoma City, much like the Chicago Bulls, they are learning how to do this.”
*On the Fox Sports Oklahoma postgame show, Thunder TV announcer Brian Davis said the team needs to show more consistency on offense. “You need to play in the fourth quarter like you did in the first half. That's where they need to improve. Play a little bit looser. Trust what got you there.”
*Thunder TV analyst Grant Long said the Thunder outplayed the Mavs for all about the last two minutes, but credited the home team's experience prevailed. “It was just a simple matter of the Mavs being more experienced in this position,” he said.
*The ESPN pregame show's “bold statements” were all misses. Johnson predicted Kevin Durant would get 50 points in a Thunder loss. Barry said Mavs reserve guard J.J. Barea would get 25 points and eight assists in a Dallas win. Wilbon predicted the Thunder would come back and win Game 5 but lose the series.
*In reference to Durant, ESPN noted that no NBA scoring champion had reached the NBA Finals since Allen Iverson in 2001.