Thunder vs Heat: 2012 Finals Game 1 Grades

The 2012 NBA Finals Game 1 is in the books and the Thunder have the early 1-0 lead. The Thunder found themselves down early, but once again showed the resolved that has defined the team during these playoffs. OKC caught the Heat in the 3rd and then put away the game in the 4th.

***

KEVIN DURANT

36 points on 12-20 shooting, 8 REB, 4 AST, 1 BL, 2 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aplus_medium
Fantastic defense on James, only allowing 2 shots outside the paint. Great offense late in the game, and willing to share the ball. Limited turnovers. Almost single handedly put the Heat away in the fourth. All I gotta say.
Sherman's Grade Grade_a_medium
Kevin Durant continued his string of superb play in all aspects of his game. He took big shots early in the game when he sensed his team was struggling, he got out of the way when it was time for Westbrook to take over, and then he reemerged in the 4th to put away the Heat. Durant has found an amazing way to direct his team throughout the game, always knowing which of his skill sets he must highlight to keep the game moving forward. I didn't go as high in my grading as Zorgon because I do believe Durant will need to tap into a higher level during this series, a top-end gear that he didn't need to reach last night.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

27 Points on 10-24 shooting, 8 REB, 11 AST, 1 ST, 2 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_a_medium
He had a bit of a rough start, he lapsed a bit on defense, and his offense was all over the place. But late in the game, he really stepped up, scoring some critical baskets. He'll never be Steve Nash, but as long as he's willing to tun the offense, pass to the open man in the post, and find Durant, I have no real qualms with him. I mean, the man got 8 rebounds as a point guard, and nearly messed around and got a triple double, like Ice Cube. Taking his free throws into consideration, he was at least offensively efficient, and I'm willing to give him a lot of credit for the win.
Sherman's Grade Grade_aminus_medium
Russell Westbrook undoubtedly rankled a few anti-Russ feathers last night with his early erratic shooting, but in greater context I think his poor shots were more a byproduct of the Thunder offense not quite knowing what to do against the Heat defense early on. Once Westbrook figured things out he carved up the Heat in the 2nd half with 18 points. Along with his offensive production, Westbrook got better defensively as the game went on and only committed 2 turnovers on the night. ESPN Stats concluded that Westbrook is the 1st player with at least 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists in an NBA Finals game since Charles Barkley in 1993.

JAMES HARDEN

5 points on 2-6 shooting, 3 AST, 1 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_dplus_medium
I honestly don't remember much of anything Harden did tonight after watching the game twice. That's good, because it means he didn't hurt us....but it also means that he didn't really help us, either.
Sherman's Grade Grade_d_medium James Harden continued his puzzling string of poor Game 1 performances last night. He only saw 20 minutes of action, as Coach Brooks elected to go with Derek Fisher at the two instead of Harden down the stretch. Harden really struggled finding any sort of offensive rhythm on the night, and his ineffective play was hampered by foul trouble. We should expect a big bounce-back game 2 from him though, which will be important as Miami will undoubtedly seek to limit Westbrook's scoring opportunities.

More grades after the jump.

SERGE IBAKA

10 Points on 5-10 shooting, 6 REB, 1 AST, 1 ST, 0 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bminus_medium
No blocks from Iblocka is a highly unusual sight, and the lack of defense he played on Battier in the long-range in order to stay in the paint makes it all the more puzzling. He didn't play in the fourth, and he didn't get his usual offensive rebounds. Still, he had a 6 point offensive explosion in the second, which really helped to close the gap we had with the Heat.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bminus_medium
I liked the energy that Serge Ibaka played with last night, but I thought that he was playing a little too fast on offense to reach his normal effectiveness. In particular, Ibaka was running some wonderful slip screen plays at the top of the key which sprang him for some point-blank shots, but I think he ended up rushing them and missing. Ibaka eventually adjusted to the speed of the game and finished at the rim rather than settle for the jump shot, but I thought he missed out on 2-3 scoring opportunities early on that could have mitigated the Heat's early lead. Also, I think it is worth noting that his limited minutes had more to do with Collison's great play than anything Ibaka was doing on the court.

DEREK FISHER

6 points on 3-5 shooting, 3 REB, 1 AST, 0 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_b_medium
Honestly, I would like to dock him like I did Harden, but you've got to grade Fisher on his level. And basically, he managed to be a part of the lineup that won the Thunder the game late in the fourth while taking some aggressive shots earlier in the game, even driving it coast-to-coast at one point. So I'll give him the benefit of the doubt here.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bplus_medium
Derek Fisher surprisingly got the call late in the game to play the two-guard while Harden sat on the bench. He responded with some solid defensive play, working well with his teammates in keeping LeBron and Wade from driving and kicking to open shooters. Meanwhile, he hit a slick pass to Sefolosha at the rim, which helped keep the team moving forward. On top of that, in the 1st half Fisher actually scored on a fast break with Wade giving chase by pulling a classic 'old man move' by allowing Wade's own momentum to pull Wade right out of the play. It is cliche, but Fisher played the 'Finals veteran' role to a T.

KENDRICK PERKINS

4 Points on 2-2 shooting, 7 REB, 1 BL, 2 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_c_medium
This really isn't Perk's series. He got the rebounds and a couple of nice shots, but he didn't have a big impact. He didn't use his size to his advantage, and seemed obsolete, outdone by the energetic Nick Collison in the fourth. He pretty much met my expectations though, so I'll give him a C.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bminus_medium As noted above, Kendrick Perkins is going to become more of a situational player in this series because it will be moving at such a fast pace. He did get some key baskets though, and I think that Perkins might actually have more value on offense rather than defense. Perkins knows how to use screens and get to the rim behind an over-aggressive defense. Also keep in mind that we thought the same thing about Perkins in the Spurs series, and he surprised everyone on both ends of the court. Never underestimate his knowledge of the game and ability to contribute in small ways.

THABO SEFOLOSHA

9 Points on 2-5 shooting, 1 REB, 2 AST, 2 ST, 1 BL, 1 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aminus_medium
Sefolosha's defense was fantastic tonight. He kept Wade out of the paint during most of the game, made a few hustle plays that got the Thunder easy points, and played some fantastic defense against LeBron James in the fourth. Going with a small lineup and putting this guy at Small Forward in the future should work fantastically for the Thunder. He missed a couple of threes, so I dock him a bit, but if he plays defense like this every night, I have no idea how the Heat will win this series.
Sherman's Grade Grade_aminus_medium Thabo Sefolosha continues his run as perhaps the most important Thunder player that nobody talks about. He has shut down Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, and last night he took his turn against both Wade and LeBron, finding success against both. He showed the Heat that they're not the only ones who can play aggressive perimeter defense, and Thabo's continued use of his strength, length, and positional defense causes all sorts of problems against the opposition. Amazingly, it was Thabo who was switched onto LeBron in the 4th rather than Durant, and he responded by limiting LeBron to only 7 points on 2-6 shooting.

NICK COLLISON

8 points on 4-5 shooting, 10 REB (5 offensive), 1 ST, 2 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aminus_medium
As I said in the recap, Nick Collison played more like Ronny Turiaf tonight. And while he did have some amazing plays tonight, his turnovers were pretty stupid, and he often got fooled on defense by a simple pump-fake. But still, his overall impact was fantastic, with some key offensive boards in the fourth, a couple of tipped passes that led to steals, and some aggressive plays into the paint.
Sherman's Grade Grade_aplus_medium
I was really, really impressed with Nick Collison's play last night. He supplanted Ibaka in the 4th quarter rotation and responded in a huge way. He played well off of the Thunder's pick and roll plays by getting open slam dunks late in the game, set some great screens for his teammates (including the play that sprung Westbrook free at the end of the 3rd, and most importantly, Collison grabbed 10 rebounds, 5 of which were offensive. The Heat are not a great rebounding team in the vein of a Memphis or Chicago, but they get a high number of tap-outs to prolong offensive sequences. Collison almost matched the Heat's offensive rebounding by himself, (Heat had 7 total) and this advantage was critical in keeping the Heat from making big runs in the 4th.

SCOTT BROOKS


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_a_medium
Okay, so Brooks had a few of his usual errors, like letting the other team's bigs shoot wherever they wanted to and running stale plays. But the way in which he made lineup changes in the second half was genius, willing to bench Ibaka and Perk in the fourth quarter. Plus, Westbrook made some really good plays in the paint, nobody had too many turnovers, and he managed defensive matchups really well. While Spoelstra stuck to his lineup irrationally, Brooks adjusted to the flow of the game, and it paid huge dividends.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bplus_medium Scott Brooks once again made stellar halftime adjustments to assist his young team both mentally as well as emotionally. In the first half his team simply wasn't shooting the ball well, but that trend is reversible. What was more problematic though was that Brooks and his team seemed surprised to see the Heat go with Shane Battier at the 4 and then produce wide open 3-point shots. That was the line-up the Heat had used for the entire Celtics series and so I thought Brooks should have been better prepared to deal with it. That said, his adjustments eventually took away those open looks, and in a surprise move put Sefolosha on LeBron to close out the game. All Brooks' moves played out well, which helped the Thunder get a big win.
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