Thunder vs Heat: 2012 Finals Game 2 Grades

The Thunder lost a cruel one in Game 2, stringing out their emotions and ours. Falling behind early, their task was a challenge but not monumental; they had the ability to chip away at the Heat's lead. Unfortunately they made little headway in quarters 2 & 3, so in the end they had less than a quarter to make things right. They almost did, but almost doing it is not enough when the first 3 quarters were so bad.

In my recap I gave the Thunder's overall effort a charitable "C+ basketball with a healthy dose of emotion," and I stand by that grade. It also makes me realize that just a little bit more of "B- basketball" probably would have spelled a Game 2 win. Alas.

***

KEVIN DURANT

32 points on 12-22 shooting, 4-10 from 3-point range, 3 REB, 1 AST, 2 ST, 1 BL, 2 TO, 5 fouls


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_b_medium
J.A. kinda took the offensive angle here, so I'll take the defensive angle. Aside from Sefolosha, KD is the only guy on the team who can really on truly guard LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Other guys are too small, too big, or don't have the length. So when you slap yourself a fifth foul late in the fourth, you become a huge defensive liability. Sure, he had steals, but LeBron was able to make two critical plays that won his team the game. But I'll give him more credit for his offense than J.A. Sherman. If this is a bad game for KD, then I'm a very happy man.
Sherman's Grade Grade_cplus_medium
Throughout the playoffs, Kevin Durant had made tremendous strides in his understanding on how to contribute to his team's offensive performance. Unfortunately in Game 2 he took a step backward and his team struggled throughout. You might look at his final box score and think that Durant played a marvelous game, but really what it really amounted to was 3 substandard quarters followed by an elite 4th. Durant needed to be a better offensive facilitator early on when his team was struggling, but his mental lapses in picking up early fouls, coupled with his adapting to deal with LeBron James, prevented him from having a meaningful impact until it was almost too late.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

27 points on 10-26 shooting, 8 REB, 7 AST, 1 ST, 2 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_cplus_medium
I said earlier in the season that Russell Westbrook was playing with his head, and not his balls. Well, now it seems like he's playing with his head AND his balls. He forces so many bad shots, but it seems like he almost has to, with Durant struggling and nobody else but Harden able to create for themselves. The thing is, when the defense knows what's coming, it's hard for Westbrook to succeed against a stronger defender in the paint, or hit a shot where he's been knocked off-balance. But the sheer fact that he was able to salvage a decent looking stat line is a testament to why he's on this team.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bminus_medium
Russell Westbrook struggled early on as well, repeating his early Game 1 performance by not having a clear understanding on how to attack the aggressive Heat defense. Once he lost his primary scorer in Durant, more burden was put on Westbrook to become a primary scorer and the Heat were ready for him. To his credit, he never stopped attacking in the 2nd half and once again helped keep the team in the game and continued his run of handing out good assists while limiting turnovers. Many will harp on his poor shooting night, needing 26 shots to get 27 points, but we have to remember that up until the final minutes of the game, nobody on the Thunder was shooting well until Westbrook started getting to the rim.

JAMES HARDEN

21 points on 7-11 shooting, 4 REB, 2 AST, 1 ST, 2 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_b_medium
Most of my memories of James Harden in this game are wonderful, especially with how he was the lone ranger on offense during the first half. But still, I wonder. If he got 34 minutes, why did he only take 11 shots? Where does he disappear to half of the time he's on the floor? If he's there, use him as another option.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bplus_medium
As we predicted, James Harden came back in a big way after his no-show in Game 1. He was aggressive early and was the only guy who was consistently making shots in the 1st half. I know that Scott Brooks likes to go with Sefolosha early to try and slow down Wade and LeBron, but if the offense continues to struggle early they are really going to need to think about getting Harden in earlier to provide an additional scoring threat.

More grades after the jump.

SERGE IBAKA

7 points on 2-5 shooting, 4 REB, 1 AST, 5 BL


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_d_medium
Ibaka's offensive rebounds are something we really have to count on this series to give an extra boost to our offense. And his offense period is something we have to count on this series, especially with Perkins failing to get down low. If he could challenge Bosh in the post and get out for a few mid-range shots, the Thunder would really be in business. But last night, he didn't do either of those things. The blocks were there, but I feel like he can be a much more complete player.
Sherman's Grade Grade_cplus_medium
Serge Ibaka supporters will look at his stat line and argue that his 5 blocks were critical in helping OKC protect the rim, and they would be right to a certain extent. Ibaka had some amazing blocks, including this one, captured on camera. While the blocks are great, Ibaka continued to struggle in securing defensive rebounds, grabbing only 4 in the game. Meanwhile, his power forward counterpart Chris Bosh grabbed 15 total, and 7 on the offensive end. Bosh's activity on the glass should be a major cause for concern, because for the most part OKC has done well on the defensive end. They cannot afford Bosh to be giving the Heat 7 extra shots at the rim per game. I'd love to see Ibaka get back into the offensive groove like in Game 1, but his boxing out of Bosh on the glass is much more imperative now.

DEREK FISHER

2 points on 1-5 shooting, 1 REB, 2 ST


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_dplus_medium
Meh.
Sherman's Grade Grade_cminus_medium
Derek Fisher could not follow up his good Game 1 play with a similar effort in Game 2. He is still not hurting the team necessarily, and Fisher still knows how to make a few game-changing plays per game (like his steal off of Wade which led to Durant's last 3-pointer), for the most part he is not a threat. Unless he is left wide open in the corner, I really don't like to see him taking to many other shots. I'd rather see Sefolosha getting more minutes at the 2 guard, so at least Wade has to think about his shots before he takes them.

KENDRICK PERKINS

4 points on 1-5 shooting, 8 REB, 1 BL, 3 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_c_medium
He got the boards, but he basically is no threat on offense without another post presence on the floor. Like JA noted below, it's moreso due to Brooks' lineup management than anything else, but without another big guy on the floor, Perkins will never get space down low, and he'll never egg on his defender far enough out to get a easy roll to the basket for a score.
Sherman's Grade Grade_cminus_medium Kendrick Perkins' performance probably had more to do with Brooks' bungling the line-up than anything else. As people like Zach Lowe have noted, the Thunder get into serious trouble when they try to go 2-large against the Heat, who are in small-ball mode 85% of the time. Perkins can be effective if he's the only guy out there, but if it is he and either Ibaka or Collison, the Thunder's offense tends to struggle. His rebounding is useful though, and still better than Ibaka's performance.

THABO SEFOLOSHA

3 points on 1-5 shooting, 5 REB, 2 AST, 2 ST, 2 BL, 1 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_b_medium
Every time Sefolosha went to the rim, I always thought "Man, that'd be a cool dunk if he was still playing for Fenerbahce Ulker." His offense just isn't at an NBA level, but his defense is invaluable. He's always in the right spots, always there to challenge LeBron, and he always avoids foul trouble. This guy's hustle is half of the reason this game was close at the end, with KD's point barrage as the other half.
Sherman's Grade Grade_b_medium
Thabo Sefolosha was charged with defending LeBron for most of the game, and LeBron finished with 32 points and 8 rebounds. So why the favorable grade? I still like what Thabo is doing defensively, even if he cannot stop LeBron's drives all the time. He keeps his head in the game, understands the passing lanes better than anyone, and was a big reason why the Thunder only allowed 45 points in the 2nd half and only 22 in the final quarter. That said, I'd really be happy if Sefolosha could finish a dunk sometime soon.

NICK COLLISON

0 points, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 ST in only 15 minutes


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_c_medium
I'm pretty much in agreement with what Sherman said. The only thing I'd add is that Collison is a lot quicker than Perkins, and he's not as inconsistent as Ibaka. Those two combined reasons are why I'd leave him on the floor in this series.
Sherman's Grade Grade_c_medium
Nick Collison's grade is more of an 'incomplete' than anything else, and his lack of minutes in Game 2 is baffling given how well he played in Game 1, where he finished with 8 points and 10 boards. Collison may not be as athletic as Ibaka or as strong as Perkins, but his is a superior position defender, and that type of defense plays dividends when the Heat ball handlers are going to get to the rim regardless. It is more important to be able to steer them into the heart of the defense rather than try to block their shots.

SCOTT BROOKS


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_cminus_medium
He's really got to find out a way to consistently exploit this Heat defense. Continually relying on Westbrook to generate all of the offense, letting Harden drift off into obscurity for large portions of the game, and having no clear fourth option aren't going to help your team win. It's clear to me that the defense has been there, but our offense relies too much on talent. We need to out-strategize the Heat, and find our own Shane Battier.
Sherman's Grade Grade_c_medium On the whole, the Game 2 loss had more to do with the players not playing well than anything else, but Brooks gets dinged for two main errors: 1) he did not regroup his team early enough in the 1st quarter when they managed only two points through the first 7 and a half minutes of play; and 2) Brooks kept his dual big men on the court together too long, which really hurt the Thunder's offense. It provides credence that the OKC offense does not have to be 'great' to beat the Heat, but it cannot be crappy and impetuous either.
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