TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley credited James Harden's offense for helping the Oklahoma City Thunder pull out a miraculous 77-75 victory Wednesday night, which he said the Los Angeles Lakers will have a hard time recovering from.
He noted the Thunder's halfcourt offense, settling for long jump shots, was “atrocious pretty much the entire fourth quarter,” he said. “James Harden was the difference. He went to the basket for six straight points. …
“It's going to be very difficult for them (the Lakers) to recover from this game.”
Later he said, “You got to be mentally discouraged. They probably played a perfect game.”
He noted the Lakers' chance of coming back also will be marred by the tight scheduling. “The NBA is not doing them a favor by making them play back-to-back games (Friday and Saturday nights).”
Fellow analyst Shaquille O'Neal was impressed with the Thunder's composure after trailing 75-68 with 2:05 left. “Even for a young team, they showed poise,” he said. “The Lakers may be in trouble. They are a veteran team. They know they have to get two at home.”
Barkley said he didn't question Steve Blake taking the last shot for the Lakers. “Russell Westbrook's got to be careful,” he said. “It's a mental lapse. He can't leave Steve Blake that wide open.”
Game analyst Reggie Miller also was stunned by the Thunder's comeback.
“This is an absolute steal for the Thunder,” he said. “They were dead in the water,” he said, noting the Thunder was missing on long shots. “Then at the two-minute mark, defensively it all opened up.”
Solid play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan was understated in calling Durant's game-winning jumper from the side. “It's Durant, switch on defense, for the lead,” he said. He didn't even acknowledge the shot went in, letting the crowd reaction tell the story.
Harlan had difficulty identifying which players were called for fouls, which he blamed on poor communication by the officials. He also called the game over before the officials ruled that Durant was fouled with three-tenths of a second to go.
For the most part, he and Miller were on top of the game as they were in Game 1 when Harlan correctly pronounced Miami, Oklahoma, (Miam-a), acknowledging that he knew the state well. Miller, a former Indiana Pacers star, also is well-schooled on small markets.
In the first half, they discussed the closeness the officials were calling the game, which appeared to be favoring the Lakers.
“Usually in the playoffs, the officials usually let you play a little more aggressive down low,” Miller said. “The way they are calling this is almost like a regular-season game.”
One call they apparently missed, Metta World Peace knocking down off Nick Collison and James Harden while trying to get through a screen, left Miller dumbfounded that a foul wasn't called.
“That was a nice WWF takedown right there,” Miller said.
TNT had some nice aerial shots of the huge crowd watching the game on the big screen outside the arena. “You don't think they love their basketball in this town?” Harlan said.
“That is awesome,” Miller said. “There is so much invested in this team and the relationship they have with their community.”
Shots of the Bricktown Canal had studio host Ernie Johnson speculating about a possible matchup between Oklahoma City and San Antonio, two cities with river walks, in the Western Conference finals. “That might be a first in playoff history,” he said.
Barkley said he liked how the Lakers were slowing the pace and thought that if it came down to the big men, the Lakers would win.
“They want to slow the game down because Oklahoma City has the best home-court advantage in the NBA right now. The crowd is magnificent. You want to slow Durant, Westbrook and Harden down.”
“The Lakers are trying to beat the hell out of these guys. That's the difference in the game tonight. There are some hard fouls going on.”
— Interviewed by Craig Sager after the game, Durant on his late air ball free throw: “I have no words for that. I'm glad we won.”
— During an “Inside Trax” segment in the second quarter, Thunder coach Scott Brooks implored his team to play good defense. “Do whatever it takes to not let your man score. Be physical. Get into them. Get into the ball. Possess the shot. Block out.”
— Harlan on Serge Ibaka's second blocked shot. “He's out there playing hand ball.”
— Harlan on Durant slithering through the lane for a layup: “My goodness, a guy that big and that long should not move that fast.”
— Miller on Harden. “James Harden continues to come on that pick-and-roll. I'll let you know he's not afraid of contact.”