Notes from NBA TV’s Coverage of The Finals Game 5 – Sunday, June 15, 2014

NBA-TV-LogoThe San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat 104-87 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals to win the franchise’s fifth championship. 

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NBA Live at the Finals Pregame

Matt Winer, Rick Fox, Grant Hill and Chris Webber

Hill on the San Antonio Spurs: “The ball finds energy. You see that in how they play on both ends of the court. It has been fun to watch. San Antonio fans have to be pleased about how they are playing.”

Hill on the Heat changing their approach for Game 5: “You can do the lineup change but it really has to be the mentality. They have certainly come out lackadaisical; looks like they don’t have a lot of energy out there on the court. Four straight Finals appearances has got to be difficult. San Antonio went through a tough road to get through the Western Conference Finals. They look fresh, they don’t look tired or fatigued at all. Miami, mentally, has to manufacture energy somehow, some way to come out here and deal with these Spurs.”

Webber on what drives San Antonio: “The motivation is here for San Antonio. The first day of training camp they watched the bad plays of their last loss. The story of perservance and sticking together is the one for San Antonio. It is harder to stick together two years with a loss than it is one.”

Fox on the Heat realizing who the better team is: “I think this is just the first game (out of the four) where this team realizes that San Antonio is the better team. It doesn’t mean that they can’t still be champions. When they got smacked around with the historical shooting percentage, I think they chalked that up to that was just one of those games. It wasn’t until Game 4 they realized ‘We are the underdog.’”

Webber on Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard: “When he is engaged, active and aggressively attacking the basket, not only is he a great scorer but he’s a pretty good passer that makes problems for the other team.”

Fox on Boris Diaw’s impact on the Spurs: “He has a willingness to create for his teammates. He is constantly a second or third point guard on that floor. He’s been a matchup nightmare. He’s a complete player and I love the versatility he’s giving the Spurs on both ends of the floor.”

Hill on Spurs guard Danny Green: “He really does fit into this system in San Antonio. They need him to score in the high teens for them to have a win…for a Carolina guy, he’s not that bad.”

Webber on Tim Duncan’s longevity: “I expect him to play one more year and then be done. I expect him to lead with dignity and keep playing until he can’t play anymore.  Just being on this team, whether they win or lose championships, it just seems as if this team is a joy to be around and that they play ball the right way. When you are in those type of situations, it’s not just winning that keeps you around it’s the relationships.”

Hill on the value of Tim Duncan’s role on the Spurs: “Kudos to him for accepting less of a role and letting his teammates flourish around him.”

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NBA Live at The Finals Postgame

Winer, Fox, Hill and Webber

NBA MVP Kawhi Leonard joins GameTime

Leonard on improvements to his game: “When I first came in the league, I had to change my jump shot. I had to bring the ball down and that is what I was focused on. Year after year, I had to get comfortable with the players on the team and they just started believing in me. It’s just been a progression for me. I just believed in the hard work that I put in.”

Leonard on the difference between last year and this year’s series: “Last year was very tough. Losing that Game 6, up five with 20 seconds left, we felt like we lost the momentum. And then Miami came out and beat us in Game 7. My focus this year was that I have to do whatever it takes to win so that we don’t have to go back to Miami.”

Leonard on the unity of the Spurs: “Coming into the Spurs I was very excited. They just took me in as a family. Tim [Duncan], Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili] and the rest of the guys believed in me. I took that to heart and started working hard. When I came in they were talking about championships and I was just a rookie so I had to step it up.”

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili joins GameTime

Ginobili on the growth of the Spurs: “We shifted the way we played in the last 10 years. When I got here it was every single possession in the post because that is what gave us the most. In the last two or three years it has been about ball movement and getting everyone involved. We had some pieces that made us shift.”

Spurs forward Tim Duncan joins GameTime

Duncan on his state of mind from last year’s Finals loss: “It was always in the back of my mind and the forefront of my mind when we played a game. You can’t address it until now. You had to get to the playoffs to start alleviating that. The focus the guys had from Game 1 to every series to playing through all of that…amazing team, amazing response, amazing to play with these guys.”

Duncan and his relationship with Coach Popovich: “He took last year’s loss harder than anyone else. He came back with a fire I hadn’t seen the entire time I’ve been with him. To come into another season and push us that hard just shows the passion and desire he had and it filtered down into all of us.”

Duncan on what this year’s championship means for him: “I appreciate this one more; it means more to me. The loss last year, coming to the end of my career…I appreciate it more for all those reasons.”

Tony Parker joins the GameTime crew

Parker on the team’s progression: “I think this is the best basketball – in the past five or six years – that we’ve been playing by far.”

Parker on playing a veteran role: “Timmy has been so unselfish since I’ve been here. He allowed me to grow up and become the player I became. He never took it for himself.  Coming into this

series, I felt like it was my turn to be unselfish and Kawhi benefited from all of that. It’s my job as a veteran to let Kawhi grow and he played a great series.”

Parker on the Spurs: “The way we lost last year was cruel. We were lucky enough to put ourselves in that position and win a championship this year and it shows the character of the team.”

Parker on teammate Boris Diaw: “He’s the ultimate team player. All he cares about is how the team is doing as well as passing and getting a better shot for someone else. I’m so happy that everyone can see that on the big stage and can see what he can do. We dreamed about the NBA when we were 12/13 years old and to win with him is unbelievable.”

Hill on the Spurs: “They are the standard in the NBA and what they have done in this series proves that. What impressed me the most about this series and their season was their formula. They obviously have their Big Three – which are out of their prime – but, collectively as a team, it is not one or two guys carrying the load. It really goes against what the formula has been for the NBA having one or two All-Stars carrying the load. Everyone had a big moment throughout this series. You have to compliment [Gregg] Popovich and [R.C] Buford for establishing that culture.”

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Notes from NBA TV’s Coverage of The Finals Game 3 – Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NBA-TV-LogoNBA TV will televise NBA GameTime on Thursday, June 12, at 7:30 p.m. ET, prior to Game 4 between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, along with comprehensive Finals coverage including live post-game press conferences.

 

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NBA Live at the Finals Pregame

Matt Winer, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Smith

Barkley on the role of Heat forward LeBron James: “To watch this guy play is an honor and a privilege. Michael Jordan is the greatest player ever, but in my 30 years in the NBA we have never had a superstar that has to be best scorer, assist guy, rebounder and has to guard the other team’s best player. LeBron James has to do it all for the Miami Heat.”

Smith on the versatility of LeBron James: “We know LeBron is very talented, but it’s amazing to me that he can be the best rebounder, the best point guard and best scorer in this series. The Spurs have to take something away. You have to get the ball out of his hands early and make someone else beat you. At the end of the game, you can’t let him run free. You have to make it uncomfortable for him.”

Barkley on the defense of Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard: “This guy guarded [2014 NBA MVP] Kevin Durant last week, then [Thunder point guard] Russell Westbrook and now he’s guarding the best player in the world. No matter how great of shape you’re in, at some point you only have so much gas in your tank. He slowed Durant down…you’re not going to stop him. Then after Russell Westbrook scored 40 points, they switched Leonard over to Westbrook. He’s a terrific player. Now to try and guard LeBron James, that’s a little too much to ask. LeBron’s confidence right now is at a whole other level.”

O’Neal on the Spurs struggles to win on the road: “The Spurs aren’t a good road team. They play excellent at home, but they let one slip away [in Game 2]. They are the type of team that has experience in bouncing back. They know how to focus, never panic and know what they need to do. They still believe they can win.”

Barkley on Spurs veteran Tim Duncan’s numbers in the second half of Game 1 and Game 2: “Age has something to do with that. He’s the greatest power forward ever, but everybody gets old and tired in this game. Now these games are going to come every other day. You have to wonder how he’s going to react.”

Smith on Spurs point guard Tony Parker: “Tony Parker has to play better. I know he has LeBron James on him, and he’s obviously a bigger guy, but the Spurs have got to pick up the pace and get the basketball to Parker quickly.”

O’Neal on Thunder veteran Derek Fisher being named the new head coach of the Knicks: “This is the new direction teams are going – we don’t care about experience, we want guys that are smart and young. Derek Fisher is a smart guy and a great player. Will that translate into being a great coach? We don’t know. Fisher won five rings with Phil Jackson and knows the triangle system. The next line of business is will Carmelo [Anthony] stay? If he’s not there, Fisher will not have a great first year.”

Barkley on the New York Knicks going forward: “If Carmelo Anthony does not stay, they have no chance of making the playoffs next year…with Carmelo, I’m not sure they can make the playoffs either. It’s an outside chance even with Carmelo. They are putting all of their eggs in three or four years down the line. I don’t believe this notion that people will want to come there just because they are the Knicks and Phil Jackson is there. I don’t believe that.”

 

NBA TV analyst Rick Fox joined the NBA GameTime crew

Fox on Knicks head coach Derek Fisher: “He is an experienced individual at winning championships, being consistently prepared as an individual and stepping in and supporting his teammates. That’s what the Knicks want to return to. They’d like to get going again and Phil is a nice foundation. You have to be confident that one of the best coaches in the game [Phil Jackson] would be able to find the right coach for himself and the Knicks.”

 

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NBA Live at the Finals Postgame

Winer, O’Neal, Barkley and Smith

Barkley on Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard and guard Danny Green: “I have to take my hat off to Leonard and Green. They were the keys to the game and were flat out amazing…that’s all you can say.”

Smith on Leonard’s quickness on the offensive end in Game 3: “I love that there was no offensive hesitation with Kawhi Leonard. He caught it and shot it. If he had a move, he took it to the bucket quickly.”

Barkley on the shooting prowess of the San Antonio Spurs: “I’ve never seen a team play that well in a half of basketball. To see it first hand was incredible…they were making everything — 41 points in a quarter is amazing.”

O’Neal on how he thinks Miami will respond in Game 4: “When Miami’s backs are against the wall, they always come out with a lot of energy. They don’t want to go down 3-1, so I expect LeBron, Dwyane Wade and others to have a big game. The series will be tied 2-2.”

Barkley on the resilience of the Spurs: “Every time you think it’s the end of the road, they keep coming back. Everybody thought if it was going to be a blowout today, it was going to be the Miami Heat blowing them out. For the Spurs to come out with their energy level, the game was never in doubt. You never thought the Spurs were going to lose this game. They are an amazing organization.”

 

Spurs power forward Boris Diaw joined the NBA GameTime crew

Diaw on whether it was a part of Spurs head coach Popovich’s plan for Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard to take the lead in Game 3: “The game plan was the same. We didn’t change anything. We just wanted to play Spurs basketball. Popovich just said some players have to play better. He did tell Kawhi that when he is aggressive we are a better team.”

Diaw on the shooting strategy of the Spurs: “Some guys in our team get green lights. Everybody else, we try to move the ball. If you have a great shot…take it. If you have a good shot, it’s not good enough. You have to find a great one.”

 Diaw on the Spurs plan to defend LeBron James in Game 3: “LeBron is the best player today. The philosophy is to not let him get easy shots. It’s not making him take outside shots, we just don’t want anything easy for him.”

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Notes from NBA TV’s Coverage of the NBA Finals Game 2 – Sunday, June 8, 2014

NBA-TV-LogoNotes from NBA TV’s Coverage of the NBA Finals Game 2 – Sunday, June 8, 2014

NBA TV will televise NBA GameTime on Tuesday, June 10, at 7:30 p.m. ET, prior to Game 3 between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, along with comprehensive Finals coverage including live post-game press conferences.

 

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NBA Live at the Finals Pregame

Matt Winer, Grant Hill, Isiah Thomas and Chris Webber

Webber on the adjustments the Heat need to make to win Game 2: “The adjustments the Heat are going to have to make are ones they could have made in years past, but didn’t have to. This is one of the few teams that has won championships while being out-rebounded by the other team. I don’t think those things can happen in this series when [the Spurs] have an inside player like [power forward] Tim Duncan.”

Thomas on Spurs veteran Tim Duncan’s continued dominance throughout the years: “When you look at what Duncan has done in his body of work, it hasn’t been a five year run for him, he’s been good in every decade. It’s very difficult to do, and there are only three or four players who have done it in our league…he is one of them. Michael Jordan and LeBron James haven’t dominated for decades like Duncan has.”

Thomas on Heat guard Dwyane Wade’s play in Game 1 during the absence of injured star LeBron James: “When LeBron is out of the game, Dwyane Wade attracts a lot of attention. There are four defenders around him challenging every shot. Wade didn’t take over at the end of Game 1 when the game was close because San Antonio switched [Spurs forward] Kawhi Leonard on him. The adjustments San Antonio was able to make when LeBron was out of the game created a lot of defensive pressure for Wade and put him in a position where he was not able to score.”

Hill on the mindset of the Spurs heading into Game 2: “Miami certainly missed their leader and best defender in LeBron James [in the final minutes of Game 1], but San Antonio found their rhythm and started hitting their shots. All the talk the past few days has been about LeBron’s cramps, and whether the Heat would have won [with him in the game]. San Antonio won by 15 points and no one is talking about them. They might come out with an edge thinking they have to show they are the better team, even with LeBron James playing.”

Hill on where LeBron James stands among the greats in the post-Michael Jordan era: “He’s right up there. LeBron James is still in his prime, so it’s incomplete to judge and compare. He’s not even 30 years old. I would say Kobe [Bryant] and Tim Duncan are probably in the same category, particularly if Duncan can win this series and get to five championship rings.”

Webber on what he expects to see from LeBron James in Game 2: “I just expect him to be LeBron…which is the best player in the world. I expect him to come out and play well. However, I do think it is about the full team game, and let’s remember San Antonio doesn’t mind giving LeBron 40 points if they can find another way to win.” 

 

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NBA Live at the Finals Postgame

Winer, Hill, Thomas and Webber

Thomas on the simplicity of Heat forward LeBron James’ game during Game 2: “He played a classic, traditional game tonight.”

Hill on the strong play of LeBron James: “With all of the talk about LeBron not being healthy after Game 1, you knew he was going to come out in attack mode. Sometimes just seeing the ball go through the basket starts to give you that confidence. Once he gets it going, the Heat are pretty hard to beat.”

Thomas on the high level of play from Heat stars in the NBA finals: “I think Miami goes back home and they win. I look at [Heat stars] Wade, Bosh, Allen and James…all four of those players are playing at a very high level. None of them are struggling in this series to score or get the type of shot that they want. Until they figure out a way to stop one of those four guys, I don’t see San Antonio having a chance to win.”

Hill on the defensive effort of the Miami Heat: “I thought the defense was better tonight. Miami made all of the right plays at the right time. LeBron carried the load, willed this team and kept them in the game in the second half, but you have to tip your hat to the entire team defensively.”

 

Heat guard Dwyane Wade joined the GameTime crew following Miami’s Game 2 win

Wade on the importance of rebounds in the NBA finals: “It’s winning time. You have to go get it. When the ball is up it is 50/50. LeBron is just so athletic…he goes on top and grabs it.”

Wade on his role in Game 2: “Every game is different. Tonight LeBron had it going. It was my turn to manage the game. I have to do a good job of getting my guys shots and mixing mine in. Tonight wasn’t an overly aggressive offensive night for me, but at this time of year you do whatever it takes to win, especially in the second half.”

Wade on the clutch three-point shot made by Heat center Chris Bosh to win Game 2: “That’s what Chris Bosh does…he makes big shots for us. Whether he is having a big night or a quiet night, you can always count on him. He’s going to take it. He has the guts to take it and has knocked big shots down for us.”

Wade on the criticism the Heat face and how they stay focused game to game: “That’s the world that we live in. Some people are going to believe in you and some people may not, but you can’t go hide and crumble. You have to come out and continue to keep striving and pushing. No matter what they say we’re going to keep coming back. We are a confident team and feel we can win four games. Keep it coming…hate is motivation.”

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Transcript: NBA Finals on ABC Media Conference Call with Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson

NBA_on_ABCTranscript: NBA Finals on ABC Media Conference Call with Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson
Earlier today, ABC and ESPN NBA analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson discussed the start of the 2014 NBA Finals on a media conference call. ABC’s exclusive coverage of The Finals tips with Game One on Thursday, June 5, when the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat visit the San Antonio Spurs in a rematch of the 2013 Finals at 9 p.m. ET. Van Gundy and Jackson will join Mike Breen – the voice of The Finals – reporter Doris Burke and officiating expert Steve Javie for commentary. NBA Countdown previews the game at 8:30 p.m. on ABC. The Finals are also available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 and WatchABC. Additional details are available on ESPN MediaZone.
 
Q. Could you have thought that the Heat could have gotten back here without contributions from their two new guys Michael Beasley and Greg Oden? As you know they’ve gotten very little from either during this run. 
 
JACKSON:  I would say to that answer, yes, they certainly anticipated both of those guys playing some sort of role.  But at the end of the day, they brought back the nucleus, and when you bring back the big three in James and Wade and Bosh, and you bring back the same mentality, and obviously some of the guys off the bench that have proven, that are champions.  Erik Spoelstra has done an outstanding job.  I would say, yes, because at the end of the day they’re built defensively, and they’re built with some special talent that puts them in position to, in spite of who they rotate as far as role players, be in the mix year in and year out.
VAN GUNDY:  I concur with Mark.  I think there are a couple factors.  I think we have to change the big three moniker to the big four because I think Spoelstra definitely belongs in there.  They have four guys who could be going to the Hall of Fame as players, Ray Allen and Bosh and Wade and James.  But Spoelstra is absolutely vital and instrumental to their success and he’s going to be there as well.  You add to that the weakened state of the Eastern Conference. They really weren’t tested.  Throw out the playoffs and so they’re here once again.
You know, Beasley in particular I thought might find his way onto the court, but Rashard Lewis has given good minutes.  At times Battier has given them good minutes, but he hasn’t been able to find his way consistently on the floor.
Q. I was wondering if either of you have any interest in the Lakers head coaching position, and if they’ve reached out to you about it? 
 
VAN GUNDY:  I found that it’s in everybody’s best interest never to comment on jobs.  I don’t think it does the team any good or the individual coach.  If teams ever want to state what their plans are before they’ve named a coach, that’s up to them, but I think it’s best that I don’t get involved with that.
JACKSON:  I totally agree.  Obviously, it’s an incredible job, and I’m sure they’ll pick an outstanding coach to lead them forward.
Q. Could you look into your crystal balls and speculate on what might happen if the Spurs either win or don’t win this or the same question with the Heat.  How does the outcome impact how these things might be made up next year? 
 
JACKSON:  I’m tired of looking in the crystal ball when it comes to the Spurs.  Not just me, but we’ve all been wrong for quite a while now.  We had them dead a couple years ago.  We had them dead after The Finals last year.  Truth be told, they’re going to be relevant and be around for the foreseeable future because they’re playing the right way, led by an incredible coach, an all-time great coach – not just in basketball but in sports in general – a bunch of Hall of Famers, and they just find ways to win ballgames.  So they’ll be around.
I think when you talk about the Heat, I think it depends on those guys and the decision they’re going to make after the season.  When you talk about Pat Riley and that organization, when you talk about Erik Spoelstra, I’m sure they’re going to, whatever the decisions are by the players, find a way to regroup, come back, and be just as strong, if not stronger.
VAN GUNDY:  Yeah, I can’t envision going to four straight Finals and any of the better three players deciding that they’re better served someplace else.  The Eastern Conference is definitely the place to be right now if you’re a great player because the road is just a lot easier to navigate.  So I can’t see them willingly changing their path.  And San Antonio, I think the Kawhi Leonard-George Hill trade got them back to where they are now.  They’re a little small at that position.  Now not only did they have the courage to make that trade, then they picked the right guy, and he has performed fantastically over his short career, and along with the depth they’ve added, and the great, great coaching, they’ve been able to surround their three best players with terrific players, and it’s going to be fun to watch.
Q. I know the word legacy gets thrown around a lot.  But how do you view a third championship for LeBron James on an historical plane if the Heat end up winning the series?
 
VAN GUNDY:  I think it would be a terrific accomplishment.  Winning a championship is hard, being in The Finals is hard, but a lot about how much you win is who you play with and who you play against at any particular time in your career.  So I don’t look at his career in Miami as being any more successful than his time in Cleveland.  He’s just surrounded with better players, weaker conference.  I think this guy is an all-time great.  I think one of his greatest accomplishments is taking a very average to below-average Cleveland Cavaliers team to The Finals, I think, it was in 2007.  I think he won 66 games with a starting lineup in Cleveland that I’m not sure would have won 36 games without him.
So to me, both places have been ultra-successful. I don’t think a guy’s greatness is directly tied to his number of championships won because a lot of it comes down to circumstance.
JACKSON:  I totally agree.  I look at LeBron James, and he’s an all-time great basketball player.  I said it, and it’s documented that my opinion is he’s one of the best forwards that ever played the game.  I really am not a guy to look and see championships to find your greatness.  Because I, like Jeff, agree the fact is who you play with and who you play against. At the end of the day, the guy has played at an incredible level for a long time, and it does not seem the end is near anytime soon.
Q. Mark, can you comprehend what Jason Kidd and maybe Derek Fisher is pondering going straight from a playing career to a coach?  Would you have been able to do that a few years ago after you retired?  And are you sure – are you convinced you want to coach again, or are you good where you’re at?  What is your state right now, now that you’ve signed with ESPN? 
 
JACKSON:  Well, I do look forward to coaching one day if it presents itself again.  Right now I’m having a blast being back with my crew.  I’m fortunate and thrilled to death to be back.  If the opportunity presents itself, I look forward to coaching again.  If I end my career the way it ended and I continue to call games, I’m fine with that, just to clear that up also.  I’m having the time of my life calling these games and being back with this incredible group.
To answer the first part of the question, I believe I would have been able to do it. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity.  But as far as players today, obviously Jason Kidd had success and continued to get better.  I think his future is extremely bright.  So I believe that the point is picking the right person. So I believe you can do it and you can be successful.  It’s important to make sure that you pick the right person.  I don’t think just anybody can do it, but the right person can be successful.
Q. Jeff, you’ve alluded to the weakened state of the Eastern Conference a couple times now.  I’m curious if either of you think that might affect the Heat’s standing when you look at that team and what they’ve accomplished among some of the all-time greats?  You know the Bulls dynasty very well.  Where does the Heat as a team and what they’ve accomplished kind of rank with some of the all-time great teams? 
VAN GUNDY:  I hate to compare because ultimately people will read into it that you’re diminishing one at the expense of the other.  I would just say the Bulls teams back in their heyday had to go through some monster teams to win it all, some really incredible teams.  I think it’s hard to compare teams from different eras.  But to me, Jordan’s Bulls could compete against any of the great teams that were ever put up.  I think they were that good, and they had to go through some great other teams to win those championships.
JACKSON:  For me watching Jordan’s Bulls, and obviously the Celtics with Bird and McHale and Parish, and those guys, D.J., watching Ainge and the great Showtime Lakers, those were incredible teams.  I look at this Heat team, and I, like Jeff, don’t diminish what they’ve been able to do.  Obviously, the competition is not the same as far as the teams that they’ve faced but you go through who you have to go through.  They’ve done it; they’ve done it with class, and at an incredible level, so I don’t think it diminishes their accomplishments at all.
Q. I saw a story on the website that refers to the 1994 NBA Finals 20 years ago as being sort of a forgotten Finals.  I presume part of that is because of the O.J. Chase, and part of it may be because of other factors.  Do you agree with that thinking that the Rockets Knicks series has been lost to history for circumstances that have nothing to do with basketball? 
 
VAN GUNDY:  Well, for me, it’s not lost on me.  I think about that, maybe not every day, but most days.  I’ve talked about this to Mark a lot because, to me, you’ll never convince me that those Knicks teams from when Pat Riley came to when he left to go to Miami – even though they didn’t accomplish winning a championship – that the players there weren’t champions, because they gave championship energy and effort and enthusiasm every day.  Unfortunately, they came up a few plays short.
But when you’re talking about Olajuwon in his prime, he’s as great to me as anybody that’s ever played.  Ewing didn’t match up a lot with Olajuwon in that series because we played him single coverage, and they doubled Ewing on every catch.  But it was still having two great, great competitors, players, humble people going at each other in that series.
I don’t remember anybody talking about O.J. in our locker room and those circumstances.  I think the nation was captivated by that.  I think the teams were locked in very much to that series.  It was hard fought.  Houston got home court.  They beat us both times in the regular season, and that gave them the advantage to have home court, and they made a couple more plays than we did, and I’m not bitter.
Q. Do you have any regrets about your stint with the Warriors?  Jeff, how does it feel having Mark back in the booth with you guys?  Obviously, it cuts into your time.
JACKSON:  Well, listen, there are no regrets.  I think about the three years there.  I think about the opportunity that was presented to me by the ownership, by management.  I think about the relationship with incredible players and what they were able to accomplish in three years and where that organization was and where it is today – you got a lot to be proud of.  Ownership, management, players, fans – it’s in a great place.  There are absolutely no regrets.
VAN GUNDY:  Before I get to what you were asking me, I would say the unfortunate thing when change comes about whether it’s players or coaches in the NBA, is more focus is given to how things ended than what was accomplished during their time together.  I think it speaks volumes that everybody wants to talk about how it ended between Mark and Golden State instead of taking a look at and examining Mark’s impact there in that he came into a team that, minus minor blips of success had been historically bad for two decades.  And he came in there and remade them.  Who would have thought Golden State would become an elite defensive team?
Defense in this league is about coaching and the ability to protect the basket, and I was utterly amazed how quickly Mark transformed them from a porous defense into an elite defense, and taking them to 47, 51 wins.  They hadn’t won 45-plus games in back-to-back years in forever.
So my focus when I look at that is what was accomplished versus how it ended.  Now, to get to your question about less air time, basketball fans in America are applauding the three-man booth so they don’t have to listen to my inane rants.  And believe me, no one is upset, myself included, that I do less talking.
Q. I know both of you have said that you don’t want to discuss any team’s interest in you or your interest in any job openings, and I definitely respect that.  But I did want to ask you, there’s been a groundswell from a vocal segment of Knicks fans that Phil Jackson reach out to you guys for the Knicks coaching vacancy, I just wanted to know if you had gotten wind of that at all, and how you react to that?
VAN GUNDY:  When you spend 13 years with an organization like I did, which gave you your first chance of being in the NBA, your first chance of being with a championship-caliber team, and your first chance to be a head coach, you’ll always be a Knick.
So there are a few box scores I check every morning right when I get up.  It’s obviously wherever my brother is coaching, Chicago, Charlotte, Golden State, the Rockets and the Knicks.  Those are my guys and those are my teams.  I’m always going to have great, great feelings for the Knicks, hoping that they have great success and really appreciate whenever I am back in New York, how positive the fans were to me when I was just getting started.  So I’ll always be so appreciative of how they treated me.
JACKSON:  Obviously, you hear the talk, even if it’s the New York Post reporting my inner circle made a statement, and I have no clue because my wife and kids have not spoken to the Post, so just to counter that.  It’s an incredible job.  It’s an incredible opportunity.  And I’m sure that Phil Jackson will do an outstanding job of finding the right coach to get that organization and that team headed back in the right situation.
Q. You guys mentioned some of those old Bulls teams.  It’s been 30 years since that ’84 draft that Michael Jordan came in.  Just wanted your thoughts and memories on facing him, and particularly at this time of year how good he could be.
JACKSON:  He’s the best I’ve ever faced, and he’s the best I’ve ever seen.  Flat out, there were times when Jeff can recall he single handedly beat us with the Knicks when other guys were not ready at that particular time.  He propelled them to be great and propelled them to championship level.  Absolutely incredible, fierce competitor.  Invited a winning spirit, and did everything on the floor to attempt to tear the heart out and put daggers into his opposition, and you can see the impact that he’s had not just in that time, but even in watching players after him, how they attempted to duplicate or put some of the things in their game that he had mastered.  But those were great Bulls teams.  Like I said, there are times when he single handedly put them in position to win it all.
VAN GUNDY:  Yeah, we used to kiddingly refer to as the triangle with the 23 in the triangle because that’s what made it run.  I just went back and looked at his numbers.  I think sometimes with great players you forget the longer they’re out how great they were.  I mean, this guy played huge minutes with the Washington Wizards when he was 39, and averaged over 20 points a game.  Played all 82 games, I think, when he was 38, averaged 22.6.  Then the run he had with the Bulls, I mean, this is legendary stuff.
But if you don’t take a peak back every once in a while, you can start to forget just how great he was.  To me, his post-up game and the triangle, how he got into the post, out of the triangle, to me was the hardest part to guard.  We didn’t have big two guards at that time in New York, but we did have big point guards.  We had Mark, we had Doc Rivers, and we had Derek Harper.  Starts with a great competitor, add the two, but we had no answer for him in the post.  Defensively it wasn’t an every play mentality, but he had the ability, along with Pippen and Grant and Rodman to turn it up such that it was    they could make it very difficult for you to find good shots.
So Jordan to me, it’s like Mark said, I don’t like to compare eras because I didn’t see some of the guys play live.  But with my own two eyes I loved going into Chicago Stadium, the old Chicago Stadium, because you came out of that tunnel three and a half or whatever it was, and you knew it was on.  In a great atmosphere against the greatest to ever play during my time in the NBA.  You know, it was an honor to be on the same floor.
Q. It’s been mentioned the East is much weaker than the West this year.  Do you think either team has an advantage?  The Heat have had a fairly easy pass through the playoffs so far versus the Spurs who have been much more tested in the regular season and the playoffs.  Do you think it gives either team an advantage?
 
JACKSON:  I think that’s a great question.  I think the Spurs being battle tested this year certainly puts them in position.  But I don’t look at it as just this year.  I think both teams are prepared for this moment because of their history, not just the history of 82 games and a playoff round, but the history – playoffs, battle-tested, championship.  So I don’t think it plays a role in who gets the advantage.  Both teams are prepared, both teams are ready, both teams are extremely well coached, and I think it sets up for an outstanding NBA Finals.
VAN GUNDY:  I would agree.  I think so much of it depends on Parker’s health.  If he’s healthy, obviously, the Spurs have a great opportunity.  If he’s hobbled, I think Miami has a better opportunity.  I think both teams are missing some people who had a major impact on last year’s series.  Gary Neal had some great moments for San Antonio.  Mike Miller, obviously, had some great moments, had a great run for Miami.
I think both teams are ready, like Mark said.  I don’t think either team has an advantage in that way.  I just think it’s going to be close, hard-fought, a tip of the ball here, a missed free throw there or an injury that crops up or doesn’t heal right could be the difference in who wins it.
Q. Do you think the Heat will have a problem with the Spurs bench with the way Diaw and Ginobili have been playing in the playoffs this year? 
JACKSON:  I believe that the Spurs bench creates match-up problems every single night the way that they’ve played all season long, the way that you cannot identify one guy that comes in and impacts a basketball game.  They do a great job of understanding their roles, being prepared and playing within a system.  I think the difference this year is Ginobili’s fresh body, the way he’s playing.  Diaw is certainly playing at a high level.  I think Patty Mills gives them a guy that can continue to play pick and roll off the bench, Belinelli’s ability to shoot the basketball.
But I think the Heat also have guys that are playing at a high level coming in off the bench.  It was amazing to watch Ray Allen this late in his career still playing with fresh, young legs and a live body.  So I think it’s going to be a chess match as far as both benches in the level that they play.  They very well could, when you talk about the benches, decide who wins this series.
VAN GUNDY:  I love how both teams are constructed.  They surround their best players with shooting and passing so that their best players have enough room to operate.  You look at San Antonio, the floor is spread and they may have weaknesses in some areas, but their guys can shoot and pass.  Same with Miami coming off the bench.  I love Norris Cole, his competitive streak.  I love how Battier comes off and can hit timely threes.  Ray Allen, Mark spoke about, one of the great shooters that’s ever played.
You need to have a team that fits together well, and both teams played beautiful offense because they have Hall of Fame, first-option players surrounded by skilled, smart shooting at the other positions.  I think that’s why this Finals is going to be absolutely beautiful basketball viewing for the fans.
Q. I wondered if you guys thought LeBron James was a better player this season than he was last season? 
 
VAN GUNDY:  I think you would actually have to coach him and watch every possession to really know that.  I think he’s been great from probably his second year on in this league, and he’s had incremental, steady improvement.  But at this date, I think it would be miniscule improvements and Erik Spoelstra would have to be the one to decide if he’s taken a dip in certain areas or he’s upgraded other areas.  That would be hard for me to be perceptive enough to see.
 
JACKSON:  I totally agree with Jeff.  He’s in rare air, and if you look at how great he’s been throughout the course of his career, to me it’s tough to say if he’s better this year than last year.  I just know he’s still great and he’s still playing at a level that we’ve only seen a couple of people play at in the history of this game.
Q. People always make a big deal with the idea of coaching in New York, and it takes a certain type of guy.  You guys worked at other places too.  And Steve Kerr came close to getting the job, a guy that got close to getting the job, a guy with no connection to New York other than Phil Jackson, and same thing with Derek Fisher.  Do we make too much of it?  Is it a little different in New York with all the demands, whether it’s from within the organization, with the media? 
 
VAN GUNDY:  I don’t know if too much is made about it, but I do believe that New York, their fan base, the media coverage helps a coach coach his team well.  I think there is a misnomer that New York demands someone famous.  I mean, I just don’t believe that.  I think they embrace – New York embraces, to me, everybody that works hard, competes, shows confidence in what they do and fights for their team, whether it’s player, coach, management person, owner, whatever it is.
So I think this idea to be a star before you come in there to either play or coach is wrong.  I think New York fans have a patience to allow someone to develop and get better.  I’ve always thought that the thinking of them having to win right away, and they wouldn’t undertake a rebuilding plan, New York fans – I’ve always disagreed with that as well.  I think they’re bright and they understand where a team is at at any particular time.  But they do want to see progress, and they want to see effort, and they want to see a combative spirit on the floor.  If you do that, I think you’ll be appreciated.
JACKSON:  Obviously, Jeff can answer the question better from a head coaching aspect in New York City, but as a kid that grew up in New York City and with the Knicks, everybody’s not made for New York City, whether you’re in management, whether you’re playing, whether you’re coaching.  I can remember as a kid watching very good to great players play other places, be traded to the Knicks and not be the same player, whereas some propelled when they got the opportunity to put on a Knicks uniform.  It’s something about the fans.  It’s something about the pressure.  It’s something about the media.
So to be quite honest, everybody is not built for it.  It’s a different animal.  It’s a different monster.  It takes special personality and a person understanding the things that come into play to a tee.  I thought, obviously I’m biased, but I thought Jeff did an incredible job juggling all of them during his time as head coach of the Knicks, but everybody’s not capable or qualified to do just that.
Q. You had a nice debate going about the Greg Oden, Kevin Durant draft class, do you think we’ll see more of that during The Finals?  And do you think you’ll fill in for Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless on First Take
 
VAN GUNDY:  I can say that they broke the mold with those two guys, so there is no replacing those two.  But I would say this.  Mark and I agree on everything, basically, except what we don’t agree with which is about everything too.  I think we even agreed on that, but got bogged down in semantics.  I just, the idea that because everybody would have taken Oden first wouldn’t have made it the right selection.
Durant from his physical, to his great career, hey, you make mistakes in the Draft, and Oklahoma City was the beneficiary of a mistake by Portland.  You know, he’s proven out to be – I think he’s going to be one of the all-time, all-time greats.  I’m not sure what we were arguing about, but I remember Mark was wrong.
JACKSON:  Well, I will say that Stephen A. and Skip do an outstanding job, and they’re enjoyable to watch, but they do have substitutes so I think it would be a great opportunity.
What you see with Jeff and I, the thing I love about it is we don’t create the moment.  Sitting there talking with a mic, you get the same thing if you sat with us at a restaurant.  We’re going to grab different topics, we’re going to have different opinions, we’re going to honestly and respectfully agree or disagree, and it’s going to be entertaining.
So the thing I love about it is I was raised in a household that way, and Jeff is like family to me, so it’s something I truly enjoy doing.  I’m sure you’ll see – who knows what the topic will be, but you’ll certainly see plenty of that starting Game One.
Q. How useful a motivation is it to the Spurs to look back 12 months ago to what happened in The Finals?  As a coach, how would you channel that correctly to benefit the team? 
 
VAN GUNDY:  I think too much is made about last year and the motivation it provides for this year.  You don’t get to this point if you need some outside force to motivate you.  I also think Duncan’s quote about they’re going to,  I forget the exact words, but they’re going to do better and win this year, like that’s going to motivate LeBron James and Dwyane Wade like they were sitting there in the need of some motivation from the outside, external motivation.  I don’t think you need to channel anything.  I think both teams are ready.  Both teams are great, great teams.  I think the games and the script has yet to be written, but I think it’s going to be an interesting one.
 
JACKSON:  I believe your question was geared towards the Spurs, so that’s the way I’ll answer it.  But I believe that you don’t get caught up in what happened yesterday, meaning last year in The Finals, if you’re the Spurs.  They’ve already put together an incredible season post last year’s Finals experience.  So, my mindset would be don’t get caught up in yesterday and lose sight of the now.
The bottom line is they have an opportunity, and they are back in position to win a championship.  That’s old news and let’s move forward.  They’ve done an incredible job, and I think that’s been their mindset the entire season, and that’s why they’re in this position again.
Q. What do you both feel are the main differences between last year’s Heat and Spurs teams and this year’s and what do you think will be different in the series? 
 
VAN GUNDY:  I think Ginobili and Wade’s health are better, Parker’s health is not as good.  Both are missing shooting that had an impact on the series.  Neal for San Antonio, Miller for the Heat.  And I think to me the Kawhi Leonard-LeBron James match-up becomes even more fascinating the second time around because we know where James is at.  We don’t know where Leonard is going to reach.  But when you look at his demeanor, his improving skillset, this guy has a chance to be very, very, very good.  I love watching him compete against James.  So that’s still to me the best part of this series.
JACKSON:  I agree with Jeff.  I think the health of Wade and Ginobili will play a huge factor.  They’re at a different place right now.  I think the difference is the role players of San Antonio.  They’ve enhanced, like I said earlier, difference is having a guy like Patty Mills who really was a third point guard last year, played a huge part and had a great year for them in his ability to play out of pick and rolls.  Going and getting Belinelli, another guy that can stretch the floor and play out the pick and roll.  Last year pretty much Ginobili was the impact player off the bench creating offense.  This year it’s other guys, and they’ve got live weapons all around the floor.
 
With the Heat, it’s just Wade is playing at a high-level right now, and it takes the pressure off of LeBron to pretty much carry them.  I think that’s a huge difference.
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The Finals on ABC to Tip Off June 5: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs

NBA_on_ABCNBA Finals on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes; NBA Countdown, SportsCenter & First Take on Site

The Finals on ABC will begin Thursday, June 5, at 9 p.m. ET with Game One between the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs in a rematch from the 2013 NBA Finals. Mike Breen – the voice of the NBA Finals – will provide play-by-play with analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, reporter Doris Burke and officiating expert Steve Javie. The Finals on ABC is also available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 and WatchABC.

The Finals on ABC production highlights:

  • updated broadcast open celebrating the greatest players and moments from the NBA Finals;
  • I-MOVIX cameras presenting dramatic slow motion replays from unparalleled vantage points;
  • 36 high-definition video cameras;
  • use of eight Super Slo Mo cameras;
  • SkyCam providing aerial views of the action;
  • former NBA referee Steve Javie to contribute insight and analysis of officiating and calls;
  • in-game interviews with coaches and both coaches will be “wired” for the games;
  • pre-game and halftime locker room access.

ESPN Radio – the exclusive national radio home of the NBA Finals in its 19th year of NBA postseason coverage – will nationally broadcast the NBA Finals with Kevin Calabro and analyst Hubie Brown. Additionally, Marc Kestecher and Jon Barry will serve as on-site studio host and analyst, respectively.

ESPN Deportes, for the second straight year, will present exclusive Spanish-language coverage of the NBA Finals. The telecasts will feature the commentary of Alvaro Martin and the analysis of Coach Carlos Morales.The games will be followed by SportsCenter presenting comprehensive on-site coverage and reporting from Sebastian Martinez Christensen and Alejandro Montecchia, who will also serve as sideline reporters during the games.

NBA Finals schedule with 2-2-1-1-1 format

Date Time Broadcast
Thurs, June 5 9 p.m. Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs (Gm. 1)
Sun, June 8 8 p.m. Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs (Gm. 2)
Tues, June 10 9 p.m. San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat (Gm. 3)
Thurs, June 12 9 p.m. San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat (Gm. 4)
Sun,  June 15 8 p.m. Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs (Gm. 5) *if necessary
Tues, June 17 9 p.m. San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat (Gm. 6) *if necessary
Fri, June 20 9 p.m. Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs (Gm. 7) *if necessary

 

NBA Countdown – ABC’s NBA pre-game and halftime show – will be on site for 30-minute pre-game shows throughout the NBA Finals. Countdown will air at 8:30 p.m. preceding weeknight broadcasts and at 7:30 p.m. on Sundays. Sage Steele hosts NBA Countdown with analysts Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons and Doug Collins.

SportsCenter on ESPN will provide comprehensive, on-site coverage throughout the NBA Finals, beginning on Monday, June 2.  Reporters Chris Broussard and Mark Schwarz will provide daily coverage of the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, respectively. Additionally, Jay Harris will host daytime SportsCenter segments, beginning Wednesday, June 4, while Stuart Scott will host the evening SportsCenter segments. In addition, ESPN NBA analysts will be on site to provide commentary, including Tim Legler, Bruce Bowen, George Karl, P.J. Carlesimo and Avery Johnson.

First Take – with host Cari Champion and commentators Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless – will be on site during The Finals with shows airing from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The First Take set will be located outside of the Hard Rock Café at the San Antonio Riverwalk. In Miami, the set will be located poolside at The Clevelander Hotel on South Beach.

ESPN International will provide live NBA Finals coverage throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and Oceania. In addition, ESPN International will air Spanish-language pre-game shows throughout Latin America (except Brazil) during the NBA Finals.

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Notes from TNT’s NBA Playoffs Coverage – Saturday, May 31, 2014

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TNT NBA Tip-off presented by AutoTrader.com

Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal

Smith on Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich: “Popovich trusts his players. That’s what Games 6 comes down to…a belief and a trust. You have to go back to what got you there. If you do that, then you can move on to the NBA Finals.”

Barkley on the Spurs system under Coach Popovich: “When you play for the Spurs, you just have to do your job. You have a role.Pop’s system can make you successful, because all you have to do is play good basketball. Popovich is the best coach in the NBA because he defines [his players] roles.”

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San Antonio Spurs (112) at Oklahoma City Thunder (107) in OT – San Antonio wins the series 4-2
Marv Albert (play-by-play), Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller (analysts) with David Aldridge (reporter)

Kerr on the improved free throw shooting of Spurs veteran Tim Duncan: “There was a time in his career, seven or eight years ago, where teams were hacking him on purpose. He was shooting in the 50 percent range, but he’s worked hard at his free-throws and has overcome some mental demons that bother a lot of players in the league.”

Kerr on the fatigue of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook in Game 5 after playing so many minutes in the series: “I think it affected him in Game 5, especially defensively. These are hard minutes when you think about what he has to do for his team. He had terrific numbers, but defensively in Game 5 he did not have the edge he had in Games 3 and 4. I thought that was directly related to fatigue.”

Kerr on Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard’s ability to score: “They need that from him, particularly in this series. He doesn’t always have to be the scorer, but on the road, against Oklahoma City, they have struggled to score. He’s one of the few Spurs that can get his own shot.”

Miller on the aggressiveness of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook: “Westbrook has one thing on his mind when he gets the ball in the middle…attack the rim. He puts so much pressure on your defense. He takes a knock from a lot of people in the media for being too selfish, those who say point guards need to distribute more, but I’ve always loved his mindset in games. He’s such a tough cover.”

Miller on Spurs guard Danny Green’s shooting struggles on the road: “It’s amazing. It’s like he’s unconscious in the state of Texas, but as soon as he crosses state lines he loses his game.”

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Sprint Halftime Report
Johnson, Barkley, Smith, O’Neal

Smith on the speed and athleticism of Oklahoma City: “Size does not bother San Antonio…speed and athleticism do. That is the advantage for Oklahoma City.”

O’Neal on the mindset of Thunder forward Kevin Durant: “He’s playing very focused, but the other players need to step up. He’s running the court, shooting the ball well and saying to himself, ‘You know what? I’m not going to let my team down. We’re not going home tonight…we’re going to Game 7.'”

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Kerr on the Spurs sitting Tony Parker in the second half due to his ankle: “I think this has everything to do with Game 7. Gregg Popovich does not want to spend too much energy here in Game 6. Obviously, they’re going to try to win here, but not at the expense of wearing out Parker, Duncan and Ginobili, his older three. That being said, they have figured out a way to win with a lot of different combinations, and that has paid off in the playoffs.”

Miller on the Spurs without point guard Tony Parker in the second half: “I think the Spurs expect to win with Tony Parker out. During the regular season they had 30 different lineups and Popovich rested a lot of guys…they still ended up having the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. They should be able to win without him.”

Kerr on Spurs point guard Cory Joseph replacing an injured Tony Parker: “Joseph is going to be my early nominee for unsung hero because of the way he carries himself, his toughness and the way he plays. Joseph is going to play a big role here.”

Miller on the reliability of Spurs guard Manu Ginobili: “What better guy to have when you’re coach Popovich and arguably your best player goes down than Ginobili?”

Kerr on Kevin Durant’s lack of physical strength: “The one flaw in Durant’s game is his lack of physical strength to be able to take advantage of smaller defenders like [Spurs guards] Danny Green or Manu Ginobili. It’s the one thing that keeps him from taking over in a game like this one.”

Kerr on Kawhi Leonard’s importance to the Spurs: “Without that trade for Leonard, I don’t think there’s any way the Spurs would have been an elite team these past few years.”

Kerr on the pressure of an elimination game: “You can recognize the emotion involved in an elimination game, and the pressure. It’s very easy as a player to get away from what you need to do. Sometimes you try to do the spectacular instead of the basic.”

Kerr on which Thunder player he would trust to close out Game 6: “I think Westbrook is the guy to go to. You get him the ball and let him go to work.”

Miller on Spurs power forward Tim Duncan: “Want to know why Duncan’s the best power forward in the game? Not only does he have the fundamentals down low, but he has the skill-set to offset your best player.”
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Inside the NBA presented by Kia
Johnson, Barkley, Smith, O’Neal

Barkley on who he thinks will win the 2014 NBA Finals: “It’s been amazing what the Spurs have accomplished. I didn’t think they could come back from last year’s Finals from a mental and physical standpoint. I think Miami is going to win the championship again. No disrespect to the Spurs. They have the best point guard, coach and fans in the NBA, but I just think Miami is going to win.”

O’Neal on the Thunder’s need to execute plays rather than relying on talent: “You can’t win a championship on talent alone. When the Spurs were going for the win [in Game 6], Pop called the play and they executed. I don’t see OKC running a lot of plays when it comes down to crunch time. They just come down the court and either Westbrook or Durant shoots. Every now and then that will work but, in order to win a championship, Westbrook has to pull back, get others involved and execute the play. The San Antonio Spurs execute to perfection.”

Barkley on Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook: “We criticize Westbrook a lot. He takes bad shots, but he’s a soldier. He can play with [me] any day. That guy is scary talented.”

Smith on what Thunder head coach Scott Brooks needs to change to reach the next level: “I think he can be harder on those guys. He can ask more from Westbrook and demand more out of Durant. They have to be more disciplined. He has to demand more, which might get under their skin in the regular season, but it will help them get to an NBA Finals.”

Barkley on the Thunder bench: “The Thunder are in great shape. They have Westbrook, Durant and [Thunder center Serge] Ibaka…but they have to get better on the bench. Their bench is awful.”

Smith on the shooting of the Thunder and Spurs in Game 6: “Oklahoma City got the shot, but San Antonio got the shot they wanted…totally different.”

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TNT’s Exclusive Coverage of 2014 NBA Western Conference Finals

Averages 6.8 Million Total Viewers, Up 39% Over 2013

Western Conference Finals Propel Network to Top Cable Audience Each Game Night

TNT’s exclusive coverage of the 2014 NBA Western Conference Finals – the San Antonio Spurs defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games – averaged 6.8 million total viewers and a 4.2 U.S. HH rating, increases of 39% and 35% when compared with last year’s Western Conference Finals between the Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies (4.9 million total viewers; 3.1 U.S. HH rating).  TNT registered the top audience across all of cable television each game night throughout the six-game series, despite four lopsided outcomes.

This year’s NBA Western Conference Finals on TNT generated the top two sports programs of the day across all of television five times throughout the series – each game telecast and the Sports Emmy Award-winning Inside the NBA studio show. Additionally, TNT’s Western Conference Finals coverage netted significant increases across all key male demos with Men 18-34 and Men 18-49 both up 33% and Men 25-54 tallying increases of 30% over last year.

The network’s coverage of the Western Conference Finals Game 6 (Saturday, May 31) – San Antonio’s 112-107 overtime victory over Oklahoma City to close out the series – averaged 8.1 million total viewers and a 4.9 U.S. HH rating to deliver the top sports program of the day across all of television (cable and broadcast).  TNT’s Game 6 telecast is up 66% and 58% compared with last year’s Western Conference Finals.

The Western Conference Finals Game 6 between the Spurs/Thunder peaked with 12.1 million total viewers and a 4.9 U.S. HH rating from 11:15-11:30 p.m. ET.  The game telecast is up 21% among total viewers and 17% in U.S. HH rating over the average for this year’s six-game series.  Locally, the telecast registered a 29.3 HH rating in San Antonio and a 25.2 HH rating in Oklahoma City.

Following Game 6, TNT’s Inside the NBA delivered a 2.7 overnight rating from 11:45 p.m.-12:15 a.m. to net the second highest-rated sports program of the day (trailing only the game itself) across all of television.

Additional highlights for each Western Conference Finals telecast:

  • WCF Game 1 (Monday, May 19) – The game, won by the Spurs 122-105, averaged 6.4 million total viewers and a 4.0 U.S. HH rating, up 31% and 29% over the Western Conference Finals in 2013.  The telecast – the highest rated and most viewed sports program of the day – peaked with 7.5 million total viewers and a 3.1 U.S. HH rating from 11-11:15 p.m.
  • WCF Game 2 (Wednesday, May 21) – The second game of the series – despite a lopsided 112-77 Spurs victory – averaged 6,038,000 total viewers and a 3.7 U.S. HH rating, increases of 23% and 19% over last year’s series.  This year’s telecast – the highest-rated and most-viewed sports program of the day – peaked with a 4.2 U.S. HH rating and 6.4 million total viewers from 10-10:15 p.m.
  • WCF Game 3 (Sunday, May 25) – TNT’s telecast averaged 6,679,000 total viewers and a 3.9 U.S. HH rating for the Thunder’s 106-97 win, up 36% and 26% over the 2013 Western Conference Finals.  The telecast peaked with a 4.8 U.S. HH rating and 8.3 million total viewers from 10:30-10:45 p.m.
  • WCF Game 4 (Tuesday, May 27) – Won by the Thunder 105-92, the game telecast averaged a 4.2 U.S. HH rating and 6,420,000 total viewers, increases of 35% and 31% over the previous year’s series.  The telecast – the highest rated and most viewed sports program of the day – peaked with a 4.8 U.S. HH rating and 7.5 million total viewers from 11-11:15 p.m.
  • WCF Game 5 (Thursday, May 29) – TNT’s game telecast – won decisively by the Spurs 117-89 – averaged 6,942,000 total viewers and a 4.3 U.S. HH rating, up 42% and 39% compared with last year’s Western Conference Finals.  The Game 5 telecast – the highest-rated and most-viewed sports program of the day – peaked with a 5.1 U.S. HH rating and 8.3 million total viewers from 10:45-11 p.m.

Source: Nielsen Media Research, Live + SD data stream for the dates of the 2014 NBA Playoffs (04-30-2014 – 05-31-2014) compared to historical dates of the NBA Playoffs on TNT.  Competitive ranking compared on nights of the NBA Playoffs compared to ad-supported cable of the Western Conference Finals dates (05-19-2014 – 05-31-2014).

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Notes from TNT’s NBA Playoffs Coverage – Thursday, May 29, 2014

nba-on-tntNotes from TNT’s NBA Playoffs Coverage – Thursday, May 29, 2014

TNT’s NBA Playoffs coverage continues Saturday, May 31, with the exclusive presentation of the

San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder, Western Conference Finals Game 6, at 8 p.m. ET

 

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TNT NBA Tip-off presented by AutoTrader.com

Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller and Shaquille O’Neal

Barkley on OKC point guard Russell Westbrook: “No one can guard Russell Westbrook. That guy is scary.”

Miller on the antics of Indiana’s Lance Stephenson in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals: “I never would have done that to Michael Jordan who was the best player in the game. You never want to tug on Superman’s cape…he’s the best player on the planet, but I respect what he was trying to do by trying to get under the skin of LeBron. Will it work? Probably not.”

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Oklahoma City Thunder (89) at San Antonio Spurs (117) – San Antonio leads the series 3-2
Marv Albert (play-by-play), Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller (analysts) with David Aldridge (reporter)

 

Kerr on San Antonio’s small margin of error: “The Spurs margin of error is small because of the athletic advantage Oklahoma City has…the line between frenzied [play] and fast is very small.”

Kerr on the Thunder: “When they don’t make mistakes and keep attacking, they are almost unbeatable.”

Miller on OKC center Steven Adams: “You could make a case for him to be a starter on [the Thunder] and he is learning under a veteran in Kendrick Perkins.”

Kerr on Russell Westbrook: “When he’s engaged, he’s an outstanding defender.”

Miller on the Spurs: “The Spurs aren’t going to win this series unless Tony Parker wakes up.”

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Sprint Halftime Report
Johnson, Barkley, O’Neal

O’Neal on OKC’s Serge Ibaka: “Serge Ibaka is a unique guy. On one possession he can guard Tony Parker and on another possession he can guard Tim Duncan.”

Barkley on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook: “Oklahoma City has two nuclear weapons over there [in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook]…if it’s a close game they can go off at any second.”

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Kerr on San Antonio’s Boris Diaw: “He knows how to attack different players. When he goes against [Kevin] Durant, he goes right to his body and to the rim. When he goes against [Serge] Ibaka, he shoots the fadaway. He knows he can’t go through or over Ibaka.”

Kerr on OKC’s thin bench: “This is an extremely thin bench. [Head coach] Scott Brooks had to go all-in by putting his best offensive weapons on the floor to change this series, but that may hurt him because of fatigue.”
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Inside the NBA presented by Kia
Johnson, Barkley, O’Neal

Barkley on the Thunder/Spurs series: “The level of discrepancy in the way guys are playing at home and on the road is startling.”

O’Neal on making a shot-blocker ineffective: “If you make three or four passes [before shooting], the shot-blocker will be ineffective because you have to over-rotate [on defense].”

Barkley on the Thunder: “Oklahoma City has to figure out how to get their bench to play better.”

Barkley on how to give OKC a more balanced offensive rotation: “He has to separate Reggie Jackson, [Russell] Westbrook and [Kevin] Durant and make one of them play with the second unit. If you look at their second unit on paper, they can’t score.”

O’Neal on Serge Ibaka: “He’s huge on both ends. We all know what he does defensively but, when he gives you the additional 14-16 points, then OKC is really difficult to beat. When he has 3-4 blocks, you can’t beat OKC.”
Visit the Turner Sports online press room for additional press materials; follow Turner Sports on Twitter at @TurnerSportsPR

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Notes from TNT’s NBA Coverage – Tuesday, May 27, 2014

nba-on-tntNotes from TNT’s NBA Coverage – Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TNT’s NBA Playoffs coverage continues Thursday, May 29, with the exclusive presentation of the

Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs, Western Conference Finals Game 5, at 9 p.m. ET

TNT NBA Tip-off presented by AutoTrader.com

Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith

O’Neal on Thunder forward Serge Ibaka: “He’s a unique big guy. This guy can do it on the offensive and defensive end. He was the third scorer that OKC was missing in the first two games.”

Smith on the impact of Ibaka in Game 4: “Because of Serge Ibaka, the game plan for OKC is going to be different tonight. We will see both teams in their truest form tonight.”

O’Neal on Spurs guard Manu Ginobili: “He’s very tactful in how he plays. He never does the same thing twice. This guy is almost unscoutable at times.  He was always a great teammate and player. He always seemed to be a guy that knew his role.”

Smith on Ginobili comparisons: “Arguable the best foreign basketball player at his position other than Dražen Petrović.  They would be fighting for that No. 2 spot at the two [guard] position.”

Barkley on the impact of Ginobili: “He’s going into the Hall of Fame. He’s just amazing. He’s one of the five greatest foreign players ever. I scream his name for a reason. It would have been an honor and a pleasure to play against him.”

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San Antonio Spurs (92) at Oklahoma City Thunder (105) – Series tied 2-2
Marv Albert (play-by-play), Reggie Miller (analyst) and Steve Kerr (analyst) with David Aldridge (reporter)

Kerr on Spurs vs. Thunder, Game 4: “This is THE game tonight in this series. If OKC can find a way to win, we are right back where we were two years ago…”

Kerr on Spurs guard Manu Ginobili: “Manu Ginobili looks like he doesn’t have a care in the world in these pressure packed situations.”

Miller on Thunder role players: “The role players play better at home and in this atmosphere. The Thunder’s bench was nonexistent in the first two games, but when you get back to familiar surroundings, guys find their game.”

Kerr on Thunder head coach Scott Brooks: “He’s really grown in his job over the years in terms of being poised and confident in what he’s doing.”

Kerr on Thunder guard Russell Westbrook: “The guy just attacks in every aspect of the game. He reminds me of Gary Payton. Payton – in his heyday – was so quick with his hands that if you weren’t careful with that ball it was gone and headed in the other direction.”

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Sprint Halftime Report
Johnson, Barkley, O’Neal, Smith

Barkley on Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb performing right off the bench: “Jeremy Lamb has gotten better throughout the season and has played very well (tonight) being a pro’s pro. He’s giving great energy. When you don’t get to play a lot and they call your number and you come in and play well; that’s called being a pro.”

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Kerr on Thunder guard Russell Westbrook’s Game 4 performance: “This is one of the best games I have ever seen Russell Westbrook play. The focus has totally been on the defensive end while the energy as continued on the offensive end. The game has gone to both sides of the floor for him and that is when he is at his best.”

Miller on Spurs center Boris Diaw: “He’s so polished offensively. I would like to see more of that. He’s struggled in this series but he can do so much for your ball team…not only putting the ball in the basket but setting up others.”
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Inside the NBA presented by Kia
Johnson, Barkley, O’Neal, Smith

Barkley on Thunder head coach Scott Brooks playing his starters too long: “I think Scott Brooks plays these guys too many minutes. I know they are relatively young but when you have a 10- point lead with two or three minutes to go, I think you have to get Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka out of the game.”

Smith on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s performance in Game 4: “Overall, this was their best game I’ve seen them play together. I have seen them play separately great, but together this might have been their best performance collectively as a duo.”

O’Neal on the Spurs heading into Game 5: “You don’t have to win on the road, you just have to win at home. I think they will play much more comfortable at home.”

Smith on Spurs guard Danny Green’s road performance: “You should always find a comfort level in what you do well. At times his aggressiveness changes from road to home. You have to seek opportunities on the road. He’s not seeking them.  He’s waiting for them to happen and that doesn’t happen on the road.”

Visit the Turner Sports online press room for additional press materials; follow Turner Sports on Twitter at @TurnerSportsPR

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Notes from TNT’s NBA Conference Finals Media Conference Call – Tuesday, May 20, 2014

nba-on-tntNotes from TNT’s NBA Conference Finals Media Conference Call

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TNT’s NBA Playoffs coverage continues Wednesday, May 21, with the exclusive presentation of the Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs Game 2 at 9 p.m. ET

Participants: Greg Anthony and Reggie Miller

Greg Anthony on the Thunder adjusting to playing without injured Serge Ibaka in the lineup: “They went through this last year when Russell Westbrook went down but, ultimately, they made the adjustments. They are better equipped [this year] with Russell and [Kevin] Durant to have a chance in this series. Even though they didn’t look great in that first game, they have a sense of how they need to play in order to have some success in this series.”

Reggie Miller: “The challenge for OKC is that they haven’t practiced or played many games without Serge Ibaka. So when [an injury] happens during the playoffs, it can be challenging…they are professionals and if you’re [Russell] Westbrook and Kevin Durant, you’ve got to rally the troops, put on a front and go out there and perform.”

Miller on Oklahoma City’s Nick Collison replacing Ibaka in the lineup: “There are things that Nick Collison can’t do because he’s not Serge Ibaka but he’s still very capable and he’s seen a number of situations [in his career]. He’s not as athletic as Serge Ibaka but he’s a better passer and he does other things better than Serge.”

Miller on who can fill the role of an injured Ibaka on the offensive end: “You would assume it would be Reggie Jackson. He’s had his way with the San Antonio Spurs during the regular season so he would be a viable option, but if the Thunder are going to start [power forward] Nick Collison, [center] Kendrick Perkins and [guard] Thabo Sefolosha, those guys can’t have five points combined in the starting lineup. It’s like playing two against [the Spurs] five. It’s got to be by committee…whoever that third scorer is going to be. You can’t rely on Durant and Westbrook.”

Anthony on whether he would pick San Antonio’s Tony Parker or Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook to lead his team at the point guard position: “You can win with either and you can win championships with either…that’s the beauty of the game. I love the fire and passion of Russell Westbrook and I think he’s going to have to play at an extremely high level for Oklahoma City to be able to overcome the loss of Ibaka and content with the greatness of the Spurs. Tony is a phenomenon in terms of what he’s been able to do. Remember, the beginning of his career was heavily criticized and it was even thought that San Antonio was going in a different direction, but he continued to persevere and has obviously become one of the best point guards in the game. Both are very unorthodox, neither are a prototype for how the position is thought to be played. Both prove that you don’t have to be the prototype to be successful; you just have to be given the opportunity and have tremendous ability.”

Anthony on the Spurs being difficult to defend against: “The Spurs are the most difficult team to guard in the NBA because the ball always finds the right guy on every possession. You don’t know where the shot is going to come from when you play San Antonio because their ball movement is so flawless and their spacing is terrific.”

Miller on the criticism of Thunder head coach Scott Brooks: “Everyone wants to knock Scott Brook. Last time I checked, the Thunder were in three out of the four last Western Conference Finals. I think that’s a pretty good job. Granted, he’s got two of the top 10 players in the league [in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant], but it says something to be able to rally these guys every year to make the Conference Finals. He’s done a phenomenal job.”

Miller on what makes Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich one of the best in the league: “He plays zero favorites. If you’ve been watching any of [his games] over the last 15 years, you know he will dig into Tony Parker and Tim Duncan the same way he will get onto Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner. He plays to win, and the players respect that about him. A guy will take less money to play for him because,  at the end of the day, it’s all about team goals and team championships as opposed to individual goals.”

Miller on Spurs veteran Tim Duncan: “I love that it’s always been about fundamentals throughout his career. He wasn’t like [NBA Hall of Famers] Charles Barkley or Karl Malone that had great athleticism and brute strength; he played a thinking man’s game. It shows you if you have great footwork and fundamentals and you can think the game, you can play at a very high level for a very long time. That’s probably why he stayed at such a high level…he never really had to rely on a lot of athleticism. This has been more of a chess game for him, while a lot of guys have been playing checkers throughout their basketball careers.”

Miller on whether Thunder point guard Derek Fisher is ready to retire and move on to coaching: “The way he shot the ball last night, I’m not quite sure he’s ready to retire. He looks like he has a little bit left in the tank. It will come down to if he’s ready to take the next step and go to the next level as a professional head coach.”

Miller on how the Spurs have taken advantage of the NBA becoming a “global game:” “It’s a global game and obviously the Spurs were one of the first franchises to tap into that. With Aron Baynes, Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, they recognize the talent that is overseas. Let’s give credit to the Spurs scouting department as well because it’s not that easy. We tend to fall in love with American players but to go global and find players that can potentially fit your system. That’s what Gregg Popovich and the scouting department have done. They’ve gone out and signed guys that can play within their system. A lot of their guys aren’t the quickest or jump the highest or are the most athletic but they fit the ‘Popovich Way’ and the ‘Spurs Way’ and that’s been the most remarkable thing.”

Anthony on how the Spurs’ system evolved: “This system evolved out of necessity. They weren’t this type of team when Tim Duncan first got there. They were a defensive-oriented team that didn’t score a lot. They didn’t have a lot of offensive weapons. Once Tony Parker and Manu [Ginobili] developed into the great players that they are, that’s when the [current] system started to evolve. Very few coaches have the ability to adapt their style to their personnel. Popovich and Pat Riley are two of the few coaches who developed a system to fit their personnel…ultimately, it all begins and ends with a generation-defining player in Tim Duncan that’s allowed you to go through this evolution without falling off the map.”

Anthony on the Miami Heat: “Miami, while still capable, is probably not as complete as their teams that have won it in the past. The supporting cast is not nearly as supportive.  Very few teams have won back to back championships, very less three in a row. They’re going to have their place in history regardless of this outcome.”

Miller on LeBron James pushing the Heat into an extra gear: “We’re all waiting for the Heat to go into that extra gear. We haven’t seen that extra gear yet. It’s not a light switch that you can turn off and on. At the end of the day, they have a guy by the name of LeBron James on their team. When their backs are against the wall in the Brooklyn [second round] series, he went on the road and came out with 49 [points].”

Miller on the Pacers targeting the Heat all season: “Even though they won’t admit it, all they’ve talked about since training camp is Miami, Miami, Miami. Well now they have Miami. They overlooked Atlanta and had to go seven [games]. They overlooked Washington and had to go six [games]. Now they have Miami and they were built for this so you’re going to get their best games.”

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Notes from TNT’s NBA Coverage – Monday, May 19, 2014

nba-on-tntNotes from TNT’s NBA Coverage – Monday, May 19, 2014

TNT’s NBA Playoffs coverage continues Wednesday, May 21, with the exclusive presentation of the Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs Game 2 at 9 p.m. ET

 

TNT NBA Tip-off presented by AutoTrader.com

Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith

Shaquille O’Neal on Oklahoma City’s loss of forward Serge Ibaka entering the Western Conference Finals: “Serge Ibaka is a game changer. His versatility and rim protection is irreplaceable. He’s the only guy on this team in that, on one possession he can guard Tim Duncan and then on another possession he can guard Kawhi Leonard.”

Kenny Smith on Oklahoma City changing their defensive approach: “They have to change their perimeter defense now that they don’t have Serge Ibaka. They might have to be more one foot in the lane, or they might have to say, ‘No, we’re not giving up any three-pointers, and we’re going to play close.’ They have to make a concerted effort on the perimeter defense now that he’s not there.”

Charles Barkley on Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams: “Don’t sleep on this [Steven] Adams kid… I don’t know if he’s ready for this moment yet, but I think he’s going to be a terrific player in this league for a long time and, as we say about young players, he might be too young right now to understand he’s in the Western Conference Finals…but he’s going to play with great energy; he’s going to drive those guys crazy.”

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Oklahoma City Thunder (105) at San Antonio Spurs (122) – Spurs lead series 1-0
Marv Albert (play-by-play), Reggie Miller (analyst) and Steve Kerr (analyst) with David Aldridge (reporter)

 

Reggie Miller on the Thunder being young but playoff tested: “This Oklahoma City team, again with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, a lot of playoff experience… Even though, yes, the Thunder is the younger in age [than the Spurs], this is a team that has so many championship aspirations at such a young age, a lot of playoff wars between these young guys.”

Steve Kerr on Oklahoma City guard Derek Fisher: “One thing that you know with [Derek] Fisher, he can miss 10 in a row, [but] he’s still going to fire. He’s just got so much confidence built up, as well he should, given the number of big shots he’s hit in his career.”

Kerr on the Thunder’s defensive adjustments against San Antonio’s Tim Duncan: “If you think back to that series two years ago, Tim Duncan was shut down for much of that series by [Kendrick] Perkins. But with [Serge] Ibaka out, it’s changed all of the matchups, and [Tim] Duncan has been able to go right at the Thunder defense.”

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Sprint Halftime Report
Johnson, Barkley, O’Neal, Smith
O’Neal on the Oklahoma City Thunder experimenting with defenses against Tim Duncan: “You can’t experiment with the San Antonio Spurs. I know they’re going to put Kevin Durant at the four sometimes but he can’t guard Tim Duncan.”

Barkley on what Oklahoma City adjustments need to be made against San Antonio: “It’s all about adjustments and we had no idea what Oklahoma City was going to do tonight. To me, it’s going to have to be Caron Butler, he’s got to really step up, and Nick Collison has to give them something.”
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Miller on the Spurs’ defensive strategy: “If I’m Gregg Popovich, I’m going to force [Nick] Collison and [Thabo] Sefolosha and [Kendrick] Perkins to beat me.”

 

Miller on Oklahoma City center Steven Adams’ physical play: “Steven Adams is always in the middle of something and I love it.”

Kerr on San Antonio Spurs forward Aron Baynes: “[Gregg] Popovich talked about the physical play of Oklahoma City. I think [Aron] Baynes is in there to match that physicality; hard screens, good defensive rotation, he’s taken a charge. He’s changed the game with his physical play.”

Kerr on Oklahoma City not playing Nick Collison in the fourth quarter: “I’m surprised that we haven’t seen Nick Collison in the fourth quarter. I thought his defense and his hustle in the third was spectacular. I thought he changed the game. He’s not played at all in the fourth.”

Kerr on the Thunder playing big versus playing small: “From what I’ve seen tonight, if the Thunder are going to go small for extended minutes, I think they’re in trouble. I think they have to stay big for as long as possible.”
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Inside the NBA presented by Kia
Johnson, Barkley, O’Neal, Smith

Barkley on whether the Thunder should play big or small without Serge Ibaka: “I think you got to play bigger. When things were rolling tonight, he went small, and it worked for short periods of time…but I think they got worn down. I think he has to play [Steven] Adams more.”

Smith on the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan having an advantage: “I think there has to be a change. But the one thing that I’d say that San Antonio has trouble with is size with athleticism. When you just have length, then Tim Duncan still shoots over you. The fact that you have athleticism with your size and length would bother him and that’s when he has those 15-point nights. But he still makes shots against length, he just doesn’t make shots all the time against athleticism and length. So this is going to be an easy series, I feel, for Tim Duncan.”

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