TNT studio analysts questioned Thunder coach Scott Brooks' strategy of continually hacking Rockets center Omer Asik in the fourth quarter of Game 5 Wednesday night.
Shaquille O'Neal, who knows something about being hacked, said Asik was beginning to feel comfortable on the free-throw line.
“When they do it that many times, you actually develop a little bit of a rhythm,” he said. “I used to really love it when they did it that time. I didn't make most of them.”
Charles Barkley said the Thunder should have ditched the strategy after it cut the lead to six. “That's the mistake they made,” he said.
During the game telecast, TNT analyst Chris Webber said he was surprised by the move because it was out of character for the Thunder.
“In a way it reminds me of a coach going for it on a fourth-and-1,” he said. “You make it, you're a genius. You miss it, you're a goat.”
Barkley said he thinks Brooks has to change his strategy in Game 6 and play Kendrick Perkins less. “I think he is going to have to go small if they are going to win this series,” he said.
But Kenny Smith said that might play into the Rockets' hands as they seek to become the first team to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win a series.
“I don't think their five small guys are as good as the Rockets' five small guys,” said Smith, who said “without question” he thought Houston could win the series.
O'Neil said he knew the game was over with the Rockets leading 101-92 and Kevin Durant did a “pout and stop” by watching the play after his teammates didn't pass him the ball. “When I see him do this, I knew the game was over.”
On the Fox Sports Oklahoma postgame show, Nancy Lieberman criticized the Thunder defense. “It starts and ends with being able to contain the dribble penetration. That's been an issue the last two games. … They look a little bit discombobulated on who's rotating.”
Lieberman said the Thunder also needs to go a better job in guarding the three-point line. “They have been waiting for this breakout game … They seemed in rhythm. They didn't feel any duress.”
Webber, a former star forward, provided some excellent analysis in working with average play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton. Among some of his comments:
--After TNT showed Westbrook in a suite, Webber said, “You can only imagine the pain he is in mentally and physically not being able to help his team.”
--After Derek Fisher took a charge. “Fisher is one of the best floppers in the game and he is one of the best defenders as well.”
-- On the Rockets' loose demeanor. “Can you tell me who has nothing to lose? They are playing like it. Letting it go.”
-- On guard play. “The guards of Houston Rockets are so much quicker than the guards of OKC.”
--Webber ripped Deandre Liggins for failing to guard Harden near the end of the third quarter. Harden let the ball roll up the court, setting up a two-for-one, the drilled a 3.
At halftime, Barkley blamed the crowd for not inspiring the Thunder. “They have the best home court in the NBA and the crowd has been very lackadaisical and it's not giving them energy, in my opinion.”
O'Neil said he didn't like the Thunder's body language. “Real players can't sleep before the game. They don't want to talk to no relatives. They can't wait to get to the game and they have a look of anger on their face.”
Kenny Smith said the young Rockets were getting “comfortable” taking three-point shots. “The reason they are making them is because they are comfortable making them, like Charles in a tie now, very comfortable.”
—Patrick Beverley's first-quarter technical drew reaction from the analysts. Webber said he didn't think Beverley's play on Russell Westbrook in Game 2 or his elbow to Reggie Jackson on Wednesday night were dirty plays.
“Now Beverley needs to realize I got one technical and I need to calm down,” Webber said. “I've shown I can be tough and aggressive.”
“There is some trash being spoken tonight at Chesapeake Arena,” FSOK announcer Brian Davis said. “The emotional intensity is palpable.”
--During a timeout in the third quarter, Brooks scolded his team: “We got to play with some passion. We got to play like we want to win this game. Play. Efficiency. Enthusiasm. Do it. You guys are capable of doing it.”