Ken Berger: Thunder Can’t Out-Spur The Spurs

You have to give the NBA a little credit. The powers-that-be could have said nothing about the nightmarish finish in San Antonio on Monday, or they could have protected the shield and blindly supported their officials. Instead, they admitted that five officiating errors were made in a helter-skelter final 13.5 seconds of action.

“I like it,” CBSSports.com NBA writer Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think it’s better than the alternative. It used to be that whether there were missed calls legitimately or not, one team’s fans were always going to feel like they were getting screwed and another team’s fans were going to feel that way depending on the outcome. So this way, it lays it all out there. This was a confluence of events that I don’t think anybody had ever seen come together quite like this before. So I think to have the transparent, sobering evaluation of what happened – as opposed to just hiding behind it – everybody gets to see exactly what was missed.”

Spurs fans, of course, remain irate that an offensive foul was not called on Dion Waiters for pushing Manu Ginobili on the final inbounds play. Then again, Thunder fans could be angry that nothing was called on Ginobili.

“If they had just called Ginobili for the delay of game for stepping over the line, none of the rest of this stuff would have happened,” Berger said. “But by the same token, can you imagine the outcry from Spurs fans if they had called that and then that had determined the outcome of the game? You always want the players to determine the outcome. This also reminds us that officials are human. It’s very easy once you have 12 hours to go over all the video and match it up with exactly what the rules say, but you can’t do that in a split second in a five-second period on an inbounds play at the crucial moments of a game.”

Either way, the series is tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 on Friday. LaMarcus Aldridge, with 79 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks through two games, has been the best player in the series, but is that enough to get by Oklahoma City, especially considering the lack of production from Tim Duncan and Tony Parker? After all, that duo combined for just nine points on 4-of-17 shooting (23.5 percent) in Game 2.

Are the Thunder actually better than the Spurs?

“Well, I don’t know that I would go all the way in that direction, just like I wasn’t willing to write them off completely as a fatally flawed team that was exposed after Game 1,” Berger said. “They got their doors blown off, they were completely embarrassed, they looked like they had no chance and the temptation was there to say, ‘See? It’s all over, Kevin Durant’s leaving, the Thunder are going to get swept and it’s the same old story for them.’ Well, it’s not really the same old story because they’ve been one of the best teams in the NBA for years. But I wouldn’t go all the way in the other direction. They had to have a few things go their way just to get that one. Frankly, even if they had come home down 2-0, regardless of what the scores were, I wasn’t going to be totally surprised because the Spurs had only lost one game in that building all season. So look, I think it’s going to be a very competitive series.”

Even if the Spurs don’t get great production from Duncan and Parker, Berger believes San Antonio could win the series.

“The Thunder, as talented as they are, you can’t out-Spur the Spurs,” Berger said. “They’re not going to play smarter than them. They’re not going to make better adjustments. They’re just not. Nobody is. But what Aldridge does is he sort of equalizes the talent in the series. If you want to come into the building and say you have Westbrook and Durant, okay, we have Gregg Popovich and we have some really savvy veterans and, by the way, we have LaMarcus Aldridge, who is eating you alive.”

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