TNT game analyst Mike Fratello's NBA coaching experience added to his insightful commentary in Game 4 of the Thunder-Nuggets playoff series Monday night.
When reporter Pam Oliver noted that Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had a heated exchange during a timeout late in the second quarter, Fratello noted it was no big deal.
“A lot of times words are exchanged, especially during the playoffs,” he said.
Fratello, 64, coached three NBA teams (Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies), including reaching the playoffs 11 of his 16 seasons as a head coach.
Fratello, who teamed with veteran play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton, noted that both stars were struggling with their shooting in the second quarter.
“Scott Brook's big assignment at halftime is going to be calming this team down,” he said.
At halftime, TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley also said the arguments “happen all the time.”
“It looked like he (Durant) was telling Westbrook to calm down, stop shooting so many jumpers and get everybody involved,” Barkley said. “He does get a little jump shot happy sometimes.”
TNT had an interesting shot of Brooks' trying to inspire his team early in the second quarter by poking fun at himself. “The first three or four minutes you played like me,” Brooks said. “You don't want to play like me. That's not good enough.”
But Fratello set the record straight on Brooks' playing ability. “Although Scotty Brooks did play for me in Cleveland and he's a pretty darn good player.”
When the Nuggets went on a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter, he correctly predicted the Thunder would reinsert Durant and Westbrook into the lineup. “That's right about the time the assistant coaches would lean over and say, ‘Let's get Durant and Westbrook back in.'”
As the Thunder failed in their bid for a sweep, Fox Sports Oklahoma analyst Grant Long noted how hard it is to win the first four games of a series. “The percentages come into play, and at some point, the ultimate comes in – that's the pride of the other team.”
Spurs near elimination
The Memphis Grizzlies' 104-86 rout of the San Antonio Spurs stunned TNT game analyst Kevin McHale. “I'm surprised that Memphis has held this high-octane Spurs' offense down,” he said. “Their defense has been fantastic. … This has just been a dismantling of the Spurs tonight.”
Barkley said he wanted to give a shout out to Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace. “He's put together a big, athletic front line and he has some good guards.”
However, fellow studio analyst Kenny Smith said he wasn't ready to count out the Spurs, despite trailing 3-1 in the series – a deficit only eight NBA teams have overcome to win a series.
“I still think they can come back,” he said. “I know I sound crazy. I know it doesn't make sense.”
Replied Barkley, “Wanna bet?”
Earlier, Smith admitted the Spurs were getting old. “It's like watching Muhammad Ali in his last fight. But I hope they have one more rope-a-dope in them because I hate to see the champs lose.”