Like the whiny San Antonio Spurs fan that he is, ESPN commentator Skip Bayless blamed the referees for taking away any chance the Spurs had of winning Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. He pointed to two fourth-quarter calls — Kevin Durant taking a charge on Manu Ginobili’s lay-in and Ginobili being called for a blocking foul on Kawhi Leonard’s three-pointer — as costing the Spurs six points.
“These two egregious calls, these unconscionable calls, these asinine calls, cost my Spurs six crucial points,” Bayless said Thursday morning on “First Take,” which is airing on ESPNEWS while ESPN2 airs French Open coverage.
Bayless, an Oklahoma City native, gave only minimal credit to the Thunder. “Congratulations to my hometown team the Oklahoma City Thunder, who for four straight games made every big jump shot they had to make. Congratulations.”
After the blocking call, Bayless said he tweeted and received nine times his normal response in return.
“I tweeted the referees just ensured that the Thunder are going to the NBA Finals. God bless.”
His sidekick, Stephen A. Smith, said he tweeted him back. “Oh stop it. Oh stop your whining.”
“The national nightmare is over,” Bayless said. “NBA fans outside of San Antonio longer have to worry about the boring, old Spurs ruining the NBA finals. I was wrong. But I don’t know anybody who picked the Spurs to get that far in the preseason.”
Fortunately for Thunder fans, Smith was on hand to give credit to the Thunder for rallying from an 18-point deficit.
“They (the Spurs) blinked and it’s gone,” Smith said of their big lead. “The grand order of things you can point to a couple of bad plays, it happens in every game. What I’m pointing to is the big picture and what we saw: It doesn’t matter the San Antonio Spurs did last night. Oklahoma was going to find a way. It appears to be their time.”
Bayless did credit the Thunder for its tenacious defense in the second half.
“All those thoroughbreds do one thing really well, they play good defense. I was surprised when they turned it up in the third quarter, they turned San Antonio hesitant again when they are flinching (with their shots).
“But all of the sins — all the weaknesses get nitpicked again — get washed away by making those jump shots.”
As for the tired refrain that the Thunder is just a jump-shooting team, Smith noted their offensive balance and versatility in picking them to win the NBA championship.
“They are frenetic. They come at you from all different directions. You don’t know where you’re going to get hit from next. It’s almost as if they’re out there playing horse.”
“I tell you right now. Forget the jump shooting, it’s their ability as basketball players. Their intellect. Their defensive tenacity. And their youth — 23, 22 years old. My God, I haven’t seen anything like it. I thought if you don’t have a post position, you’re not quite there. You’re about a year away. They are a year ahead of schedule.”
Expect Bayless to jump on the Thunder bandwagon for the NBA Finals. Some Thunder fans probably would prefer that he stay off.