Thunder vs Lakers 2012 Playoffs Round 2: Final Player Grades

The Thunder finished Round 2 in convincing fashion, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1. The entire series was an entertaining affair, with the Thunder winning convincingly in Game 1 and Game 5 and winning it close in Games 2 and 4. Most impressive was the way that the Thunder closed out each of their wins. With the exception of the free throw fest that was Game 3, OKC always knew exactly what it was trying to do down the stretch and key players rose to the challenge. The Lakers are gone, and the Thunder receive their Round 2 grades here.

Round 1 Final Player Grades

***

KEVIN DURANT

26.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.6 BPG, 1.6 SPG, 2.8 TPG


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aplus_medium
I'm giving him an A+ because there's absolutely no way he could have played this series any better. He was working for open shots while Kobe was struggling with turnaround jumpers, and he forced shots and kicked the offense into gear when he absolutely needed to. Oh, and he pretty much clinched Game 2, Game 4, and Game 5. His defense was kinda eh sometimes and he had a couple of turnovers, but screw that.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_aplus_medium Kevin Durant was everything you'd expect your team's leader to be - poised, unhurried, confident, and made all the right plays at the right time. Often times he was the best player on the court and you barely realized he was out there. Metta World Peace played him well defensively, and KD still shot 52% from the floor and almost 40% from 3-point range. On top of that, Durant was the key defender guarding Kobe Bryant in the 4th quarter of games, and he did a great job in keeping Kobe from stealing Games 2, 4, and 5.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

25.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 TPG


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bplus_medium I'm lowering Westbrook's grade because of how he played in Game 3. I'm sorry, but his percentages were horrible that night, and he's pretty much the main reason why we lost that game. He wasn't attacking the rim, he was shooting too many wild jumpers before the offense was set, and over the course of the series he took a few too many threes. Of course, he had a bit of a renaissance after that and started attacking the rim for the first time in about a year, and pretty much saved the series. Still, he did miss/force a lot of shots in Game 5. So I'm putting him at B+. Really awesome play, but a couple of negatives draw him back.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_a_medium
Westbrook continued his evolution as a battle-tested playoff point guard with another sensational series. The Lakers knew from the Dallas series that he was the one guy for which there was no easy answer, and despite several defensive switches, there was still little LA could do with the dynamic Mr. Westbrook. While his Game 3 struggles contributed to the loss of a winnable game, in effect his failings in that game helped him refocus on what he does so well - attack the lane, to the tune of 37 in Game 4 and 28 in Game 5. On top of that, Westbrook committed only 4 turnovers, an average of less than 1 per game.

JAMES HARDEN

15.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 2.3 TPG


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_b_medium I think a lot of people have been semi-snubbing James Harden during this series. Sure, Westbrook and Durant took it over without him, but he's quietly made some great contributions. He just hasn't been fueling the spurts of offense he's known for, which makes him a lot less noticeable on the stat sheet. But he's gotten to the line, and kept the ball moving. What I'm really docking him for is the poor defense on Bryant later in the series. Otherwise, I'd put him up in the A column with Durant and Westbrook.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_bminus_medium
Harden never really seemed to get on track in this series, and I am still not sure why. The Lakers bench is not deep and they do not have any great defensive players who come into the game who can handle him. Yet Harden really struggled in getting his pick and roll game going, and thus did not really serve his normal catalyst role until Game 5. Perhaps the biggest reason is that Harden struggled with fouls all series, often getting called just for jostling for position. It seemed to make him more hesitant and off-balance, and therefore not quite as effective.

More grades after the jump.

SERGE IBAKA

8.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 4.0 BPG, 0.4 SPG, 0.2 TPG

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bplus_medium Pau Gasol was pretty much a non-factor in this series, and I credit that to Serge Ibaka. He blocked his shots in the paint, and kept him out of the paint when he could. Sure, Gasol was somewhat efficient, but that's only because he's the smartest big man in the NBA. Ibaka's offense was more eh. He was a great offensive rebounder and hovered around the rim a lot for easy points, but his jumper was really off and that hurt the offense at times.

Sherman's
Grade
Grade_bminus_medium
I liked the way Ibaka really battled with Gasol throughout the series and still managed to get 4 blocks per game, but Gasol looks so out of sorts when he's on the court with Kobe these days I just don't know how much of it was Ibaka's play or just Gasol's mental state. Ibaka was active around the rim, which is normal, but he couldn't even grab 6 rebounds per game, a stunningly low figure for the athletic and strong Ibaka. On top of that, as we discussed earlier, I did not like how OKC was deploying him on the perimeter so much, and I hope that Scott Brooks sees fit to keep Ibaka around the rim more going forward.

DEREK FISHER

4.2 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 TPG

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_d_medium
I know I've trumpeted this a million times, but this was Derek Fisher's series to get revenge against his old team, and his results were paltry, at best. One three during the fourth quarter of Game 4, and that's about it. His shooting was alright, but nothing special. He couldn't guard Kobe worth a lick, and he allowed Ramon Sessions to get wherever he wanted on the floor.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_bminus_medium

I'm not sure what another A-level playoff series would have looked like, and I still don't because Fisher's play dropped way off from the first round. If there were ever a series for which Fisher could and should be able to shine, it is against the team that got rid of him. He wasn't awful by any stretch, but he was more or less just 'there,' hitting a few shots and keeping his team in an emotionally good place.

KENDRICK PERKINS

4.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.2 BPG, 0.4 SPG, 1.4 TPG


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bplus_medium Kendrick Perkins was really off and on throughout this series. Sometimes he's guard Bynum well, sometimes not. Sometimes he'd be productive on offense, sometimes he'd clank short jumpers. Sometimes he'd rebound extremely well, sometimes he'd barely grab anything at all. But since he battled through injury and was key in our early wins, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_a_medium My grade for Perkins is primarily driven by the hip injury he brought with him into this series and how he dealt with the monumental task of dealing with Andrew Bynum. Bynum is still a bit of an enigma mentally, but the one thing for certain is that he can destroy defending front lines all by himself. He was the one player where LA had a clear match-up advantage, and it was Perkins' job to slow him down. Heck, Perkins was acquired for this very specific task. While Bynum still ended up with solid numbers, averaging 16.6 points and 9.4 rebounds, he never got into the kind of groove where he made the Thunder defenders bend to his will.

DAEQUAN COOK

2.0 PPG, 0.0 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 TPG


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade

Grade_d_medium


Aside from his Game 1 performance, Cook has been AWOL. He's gone from a serious part of our offense to the guy who randomly takes one three per game. Honestly, against an inside-oriented slow-paced team, it just wasn't his series. We'll need him to step up against the Spurs though, who are much more offensively potent.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_c_medium

It would probably be better to give Cook an 'incomplete' than an actual letter grade. I really expected him to play a bigger role in attacking the slower Lakers defense, but he really only made token appearances after Game 1. If Durant has the opportunity to play more in the post in the next round, Cook may be able to serve again in spacing out the Spurs' defense.

THABO SEFOLOSHA

4.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.2 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 TPG


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_b_medium You can't really give Thabo anything but a B. His offense was as streaky as ever, and he rotated the ball well. But his defense on Kobe Bryant was spot on, perhaps aside from Game 5. Why is defense so hard to quantify? Why can't I hold all these limes?

Sherman's Grade
Grade_b_medium Sefolosha's job in this series was straightforward - make Kobe Bryant work. It is unfair to expect one man to keep a prolific scorer from eventually putting the ball in the net, but Thabo had to make Kobe work as much as possible so that Kobe never had enough space to both score and distribute. Sefolosha did not offer much more than stout perimeter defense, but that was enough to help the Thunder earn wins in Games 1 & 2.

NICK COLLISON

3.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.2 BPG, 0.4 SPG, 0.6 TPG


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_c_medium Nick Collison was serviceable on offense, but he really didn't do anything but take advantage of wide open looks. Defensively, he was straight up abused. There's a reason his minutes were limited for three of the five games, and Mohammed got so many minutes. He's great at keeping position on his defender, but he's not really excellent at banging with them in the paint. He'll do better against the smaller Spurs.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_bminus_medium Nick Collison put forth his normal effort through much of the series, but unfortunately he was at a bit of a match-up disadvantage against the bigger & stronger Bynum or the more agile Pau Gasol. His performance was also hindered a bit by Harden's struggles on offense. Harden couldn't seem to get on track, so Collison often missed opportunities to set good screens or receive the pass to finish at the rim.

NAZR MOHAMMED

2.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.6 BPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 TPG

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade

Grade_cplus_medium


He got so few minutes that it's hard to tell how well he did. He had nice offensive numbers in Games 1 and 5. But I remember him getting blown by a few times by Laker defenders. Eh, C+.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_b_medium After a quiet 1st round, Mohammed's job in the 2nd was to spell Perkins while Perkins regained his strength. While his statistics in Games 1 & 2 were not eye-popping, when called upon he did a good job slowing down Bynum and matching up against the much younger Jordan Hill. Most importantly, he was not a weak link that allowed the Lakers to gain much momentum when Perkins was on the bench.

SCOTT BROOKS

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bminus_medium
I credit most of the success in this series to a change of attitude by the players, rather than a change in coaching strategy by Brooks. I could be wrong, but I don't really see him having told Westbrook to attack the rim more. But I do credit him for using all four of the Thunder's big men in this series (as opposed to three against Dallas) and keeping opportunities well distributed among the team. Still, he failed to make some key adjustments on defense against key Laker defenders, so I don't credit him with anything too brilliant. Still, a nice performance.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_bplus_medium
Perhaps Brooks' greatest attribute at this point is to allow his key players to fully engage their talents when the time is right. In Game 4 in particular, we saw Westbrook revert to his 2011 honey badger mode and take over the second half of the game, and even though Westbrook still had a few reckless forays, Brooks stayed with him. Sometimes the best thing a coach can do is get out of the way and let his players do the work. It might not seem like coaching, but it is still the right decision.
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