Notes from TNT’s NBA Coverage – Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nba-on-tntTNT’s NBA coverage continues Thursday, December 27, at 8 p.m. ET with doubleheader action featuring the Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder followed by the Boston Celtics @ L.A. Clippers at 10:30 p.m.

***CLIP OF THE NIGHT***

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TNT’s Inside the NBA crew hands out presents to each other.

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TNT NBA Tip-off presented by AutoTrader.com

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

Barkley on the Oklahoma City Thunder: “They are the best team in the West and the best team in the NBA.”

O’Neal on the best team in the NBA right now: “I’m going out on a limb and saying the [New York] Knicks are the best team in the NBA right now.”

Barkley on whether Oklahoma City can win the championship this season: “It’s going to come down to [Russell Westbrook], who is one of the best players in the NBA, and Serge Ibaka. He [Westbrook] has got to take that next step as a player when you make the guys around you better.”

O’Neal on the best big men in the NBA: “[Kevin Love] is in the top three. He puts in a lot of work. He’s definitely top three.”

Barkley on the best big men: “Dwight Howard is the best big man, followed by Marc Gasol and…Kevin Love is my third best big man in the NBA.”

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Game 1:  Oklahoma City Thunder (93) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (99)

Announcers: Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Reggie Miller and Chris Webber (analysts) with Marty Snider (reporter)

Webber on the Timberwolves: “This team is a lot different, they’re young, they’re exciting, learning on the curve…and two things that are always constant: the fans are loud and it’s cold here in Minnesota.”

Miller on Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet: “When you’re No. 2 [overall pick in the draft] a lot of fans expect you to be a franchise-changing player. If you’re Thabeet, you don’t have to be ‘the man.’ You can go in and play your game and, in fact, you’re learning from a pretty good center in front of you in Kendrick Perkins.”

Miller on Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman: “His offense and ball movement have always been superior. That’s why he’s always been in the upper echelon when it comes to head coaches in this league.”

Webber on Thunder forward Serge Ibaka: “Anybody who has seen Ibaka come in from his rookie year knows he has steadily improved offensively every year. He likes taking it hard to the paint.”

Miller on the Timberwolves Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio: “If you’re Rick Adelman you want to have your best players and most important players – Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio – playing at a high level, playing major minutes and being successful.”

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Sprint Halftime Report

Johnson, Barkley, O’Neal and Smith

O’Neal on Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic: “He’s an ‘other.’ I appreciate guys that work hard. He’s just playing good hard basketball right now and he’s the reason they [the Timberwolves] are up.”

Smith on Thunder guard Russell Westbrook: “Sometimes you become a better player just because someone gives you more responsibility. This is happening a little bit with Russell Westbrook.”

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Webber on Westbrook: “He might be the most athletic point guard I’ve ever seen.”

Miller on Durant and Westbrook: “Both Durant and Westbrook, if you look at the numbers, they’re doing all the little things to be successful for this team.”

Webber on the Timberwolves as a small market underdog: “We need the story of David and Goliath in sports. You definitely love seeing everybody get their shot.”

Webber on the Timberwolves’ ability to close out the Thunder: “Today, they were able to keep that lead by continuing to cut, pass and rebound. Minnesota used the energy of their home crowd.”

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Game 2:  Miami Heat (110) @ Dallas Mavericks (95)

Announcers: Marv Albert (play-by-play), Steve Kerr and Mike Fratello (analysts) with Craig Sager (reporter)

Fratello on Dallas Mavericks center Chris Kaman: “Kaman has become very comfortable with that 17-foot jump shot. He’s settling now more on the perimeter.”

Kerr on the Dallas Mavericks style of play vs. Miami: “With Dirk [Nowitzki] sidelined, Dallas has to get out in transition to score.”

Fratello on Miami Heat forward LeBron James: “He shoots the jump shot now with so much confidence.”

Kerr on the Miami Heat and their inconsistent play in the regular season: “The motivation is tough to come by…but we’ll see this team pick it up as the season goes along and particularly come playoff time.”

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Sprint Halftime Report

Johnson, Barkley, O’Neal and Smith

Smith on the Miami Heat: “You can’t win multiple championships and not have big men. You talk about multiple championships? In Houston [we had] Otis Thorpe. He came to the arena to ‘eat glass’ everyday. They [Miami] don’t have a glass eater.”

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Kerr on the Dallas Mavericks’ first half of play: “The only bright spot for Dallas was the play of Jae Crowder and Bernard James off the bench. They brought energy, they brought defense and got Dallas back in the game.”

Fratello on Miami Heat forward LeBron James’ first half of play: “He came out in attack mode.”

Kerr on the anticipated return of Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki: “Dirk Nowitzki can’t come back soon enough…there is nowhere for Dallas to go offensively [right now].”

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Inside the NBA presented by Hyundai

Johnson, Barkley, O’Neal and Smith

Craig Sager interviews LeBron James following the Miami Heat win

James on being more relaxed this season: “I’m comfortable. I’m very comfortable in my game. I work a lot on my game. I try to implement everything I do in practice and in film sessions and in workouts onto the floor and I’m glad it is able to transfer.”

Barkley on the top four teams in the Western Conference: “The top four seeds in the West are already wrapped up: Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Memphis and the Clippers…those four teams are loaded.”

Barkley on the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs: “The Dallas Mavericks are not going to win a playoff series.”

O’Neal on the Heat: “A lot of people think they are just coasting. I think they are doing fine. Again, if they can play without getting injuries going into the postseason, they have the ability to turn it on. D-Wade has the ability to go up one more notch – even at his age. I think they can repeat.”

Barkley on the Timberwolves: “This Minnesota team has a better upside than the Dallas Mavericks. They have more depth…they are better. Kevin Love, at this stage of his career, is a better player than Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki has a lot of wear and tear on his body. So they have a better upside at this stage even when Dirk Nowitzki comes back.”

Smith on the Dallas Mavericks: “This is not going to be the same team next year; they are going to do different things. So Minnesota does have a better upside, but the Dallas Mavericks are going to make the playoffs this year…as it stands.”

Barkley on the competition in the East: “The only question in my mind is who can compete with Miami in the East? The Knicks are in the conversation, but we have to wait to see what happens with Derrick Rose.”

Barkley on Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard: “This Lillard kid is Rookie of the Year. That kid is Dennis Rodmanish.”

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