Thunder vs Heat: 2012 Finals Game 4 Grades

Game 4 of the NBA Finals did not end the way that we had hoped. The Thunder had their chances once again, and just like in Games 2 and 3 the Heat were able to win all the critical battles while the Thunder came up just short. We are left with even more 'what-if's.'

***

KEVIN DURANT

28 points on 9-19 shooting, 2 REB, 3 AST, 2 ST, 3 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_b_medium
I know that we're all expecting Durant to be the guy who saves this team and plays with a fire under his butt every single night, but I was satisfied with Durant's performance. He scored efficiently, and he did a good job of limiting LeBron early on in the game. Sure, he didn't take enough advantage of LeBron's leg injury later on, but to me, it's pretty far down on the list of overall errors.
Sherman's Grade Grade_b_medium
Kevin Durant got out to a solid start in Game 4, looking much more aggressive in his offensive attempts. At one point an ABC commentator said that he looked like he was essentially foregoing any perimeter shot and just trying to drive the ball. Durant was rewarded with the effort by getting to the free throw line 9 times. However, as the game went on Durant once again struggled to find open space to work, and his shot selection became more and more passive. Even when LeBron James went down with a leg injury in the 4th, Durant still had trouble getting good looks. In the Finals, a team's best player needs to play his best, and that did not happen Tuesday night.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

43 points on 20-32 shooting, 7 REB, 5 AST, 1 ST, 3 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_a_medium
Russell Westbrook played like an absolute champion tonight. I don't care about his careless turnovers. If he wasn't in the game, we wouldn't have even been competitive. Having this guy play every single game over the last few years has been an absolute swoon for this team. The only thing I'd blame him for is some lackluster defense on Wade, which allowed Wade to get to the post more than in previous games this series.
Sherman's Grade Grade_a_medium
I really wish there was a grade that was halfway between an A+ and an A, because that's where I think Westbrook's Game 4 resided. We can't give him the highest grade possible because he did commit two very careless turnovers in the 4th quarter and his lapse in judgment following a jump ball all but ended the Thunder's chances to tie the game. That said, I feel like an 'A' does not give Westbrook's game justice because for the most part he WAS the Thunder's entire offense. Westbrook's 17 points in the 4th quarter alone rallied the Thunder to a tie game when everything else seemed to be slipping away. For a long stretch, he was the only player who seemed to have the requisite hunger to win a game that his team had to have. As we predicted/hoped, Westbrook finally had his coming-out game, and unfortunately it seems like the only way Westbrook can have a game that should win people to his cause would inevitably end with such a mental mistake.

JAMES HARDEN

8 points on 2-10 shooting, 10 REB, 2 AST, 1 ST, 4 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_f_medium
I don't see how you could give Harden anything but an F. Harden wasn't an effective ballhandler tonight, losing it four times on some stupid passes right to the defense while under pressure. He missed wide open shots. His defense on LeBron was terrible. He didn't attack the rim at all. The nerves weren't there, and the will wasn't there. Still, I definitely haven't given up on him.
Sherman's Grade Grade_dminus_medium
Watching James Harden makes me want to cry at this point. Perhaps it is entirely due to a combination of the fatigue of guarding LeBron and then trying to fight through the Heat perimeter defense, but right now Harden looks like he has reverted to his early 2010 form. He's still battling (10 boards), but his offensive instincts have dried up and he has actually become a liability in the half-court set. You can see that he has no confidence in his jump shot and he is not getting calls when he goes at the rim. With his rhythm thrown off, even his passes are a half-step too slow. I'm not sure what OKC can do with him at this point, other than maybe just use him as a screener with Durant and hope that his nose for the basket kicks in and he can find some seams to get to the rim.

More grades after the jump.

SERGE IBAKA

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


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_cminus_medium
Serge Ibaka, once again, wasn't as good on defense as we know him to be. Brooks has pretty much told him to guard Bosh or ride the pine, and as a result, he hasn't patrolled the lane at all. Offensively, he took one shot in the second half, and made almost no attempt to get around the defensively inept Bosh. He's a player who needs to be set up by other guys, so they might be just as much to blame for his bad performance.
Sherman's Grade Grade_cplus_medium
Serge Ibaka has finally shown some more energy on the boards, but for whatever reason to be determined later, he is not being used effectively in the offense. In Game 1, we saw Ibaka running some extremely crisp and quick high pick and rolls and then finish at the rim. Game 1 was the last time we saw this type of offense, and I have no idea why. Ibaka is at least as athletic as Chris Bosh and moreso than Udonis Haslem, and yet his ability to attack the rim as well as his reliable free throw jumper are nowhere to be found as the Thunder's offense has dried up. Ibaka and Collison really should have played a bigger role in the Thunder's strategy, and they are now almost out of time to get something to work.

DEREK FISHER

0 points on 0-1 shooting, 1 ST


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_f_medium
What J.A. Sherman said. Except I'm a harsher teacher.
Sherman's Grade Grade_d_medium
Derek Fisher played 22 minutes, took one terrible shot that was blocked, and offered little else. He cannot produce his own offense (not that he ever could) and so it kills me to think that some other player like Cook or Sefolosha is sitting while Fisher offers token resistance to Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers. If it is veteran leadership he provides, then let him provide it on the bench, not on the court in the 4th quarter.

KENDRICK PERKINS

4 points on 2-5 shooting, 3 REB


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_dplus_medium
This guy has the size to take care of Battier or Haslem in the post. But every time he gets the ball on the block, he makes no headway whatsoever. He's still playing like he has that weight he lost over the last off-season, but his body needs to adjust to a more Ibaka or Collison-like offensive game. And his rebounding is still lackluster. But he didn't really kill us in any way.
Sherman's Grade Grade_cplus_medium
Kendrick Perkins was miffed after watching his team lose its early lead, and for brief spurs Perkins still gets his work done on the court. However, for every minute Perkins is out there, it means Collison, the only consistent big man producer, is not. Perk still has the fight in him though, and he will make sure his team does not go quietly into the good night.

THABO SEFOLOSHA

5 points on 2-7 shooting, 2 REB


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_f_medium
I hate to echo J.A. again, but most of what I think of when I see Sefolosha from yesterday's game is James taking him into the post and scoring on him rather easily. His offense was nothing to write home about, as he still has no ability to draw a foul in the post whatsoever. And don't get me started on his potentially game-tying shot, where he didn't even think to fake out Dwayne Wade before hoisting up the jumper. In all areas, Thabo pretty much failed tonight.
Sherman's Grade Grade_c_medium
Thabo Sefolosha had a down-game after performing well in the previous two. LeBron James did a number on him, taking Thabo into the post where he is less adept at guarding James. Sefolosha did about as well as he could, which meant that James managed to score 26 points and hand out 12 assists. On the other end of the court, Sefolosha had a brief moment to redeem himself and his team, but his 3-point attempt was blocked by Wade.

NICK COLLISON

6 points on 3-4 shooting, 4 REB, 1 AST, 1 BL


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bplus_medium
Again, J.A. knows what he's talking about. One of the notes I took early in the game was how Collison was dominating in the paint by getting in good positions to score. Basically, despite being a worse scorer than Ibaka or Perkins, he got in the spots he needed to for easy points. At one point, he even dribbled past Bosh right to the rim, rather than trying to back him down. But he hardly played, and he was all but forgotten in the early fourth.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bplus_medium
When all is said and done in this series, one of the big questions will be why the Thunder refused to stay with Nick Collison particularly on the offensive end. He has proven that he is the only Thunder big who is skilled and aware enough to make the Heat perimeter defense pay for their aggressive trapping. He was getting it done again early in Game 4, hitting his first 3 shots. And then, like Keyser Soze, he all but vanished, giving way to the less experienced Ibaka, the less athletic Perkins, and the less-everything James Harden.

SCOTT BROOKS


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_dminus_medium
I wasn't at all impressed by Brooks' performance. He corrected the problems of last night (which basically amounted to foul trouble and free throw shooting), but he made the same stupid lineup errors that he made in Game 3. Plus, he let the Heat get easy points by taking advantage of mismatches (some that he intentionally made), and let the Heat get easy threes while he played small. I wouldn't credit Wade and James success to his failures, but I would certainly credit the needless scores of Chalmers, Cole, and Jones to him.
Sherman's Grade Grade_cminus_medium
On the one hand Scott Brooks finally got his team out of the gates properly. On the other hand he failed to stop the bleeding quickly when the Heat went on their 2nd quarter run. On a third hand, he did a good job of keeping his team's head above water and recognizing that Westbrook was the only guy who was taking advantage of clear match-up problems offensively. But on a 4th hand, Brooks could not help his team put together enough offense in the 4th to counter the Heat. His last hand gets used up by (in my opinion) failing to equip his team with the proper knowledge of what to do in the end-game jump-ball situation. Really, there was only one thing to be said to his team - "Don't foul." That's it. And Brooks failed to get that message through to Westbrook.
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