Thunder vs Spurs 2012 Western Conference Finals: Game 4 Grades

The Thunder evened the series with the Spurs at 2-2 in Game 4, and I think we got our first glimpse as to what the rest of the series is going to be. The remaining games are going to be close-fought affairs, as both teams know what they must do in order to compete. Both teams are finding ways to score on the interior, and it is going to come down to defensive adjustments and each team's ability to continue to produce points late in the 4th quarter. The end to this series should be sublime.

***

KEVIN DURANT

36 points on 13-20 shooting, 6 REB, 8 AST, 1 BL, 1 TO

Grade Comments
Grade_aplus_medium We predicted here two general things - Game 4 would be a close affair, and that at some point Kevin Durant would be required to deliver the team through a close 4th quarter. Durant played a perfectly balanced game in order to accomplish this goal. In the first 2.5 quarters, he patiently set up all of his bigs - Perkins, Ibaka, and Collison - and then in the 3rd he went to work scoring the ball as the Spurs made their run. After trimming the OKC lead to 4, Durant went on a personal 16 point run that managed to increase the lead and ground out any chance the Spurs had at a last second win. There are many reasons why Durant is considered the best closer in the NBA, and Game 4 was exhibit 1A.

SERGE IBAKA

26 points on 11-11 shooting, 5 REB, 3 BL, 1 TO

Grade Comments
Grade_a_medium
Serge Ibaka played a perfect offensive game...literally. He shot 11-11 and scored a career-high 26 to help carry his team while the primary offensive threats struggled in the 1st half. Ibaka scored in all the ways he should score - high screen jumpers, offensive put-backs, and rolls to the rim off of picks he set. The 11-11 was an amazing stretch for Ibaka, and played a major role on how the Thunder were able to crack the Spurs' interior. He doesn't need to be 11-11 every game, but he has to be a threat on offense in order to force Tim Duncan to shift up in the lane. Once Duncan does that, the driving lanes and backdoor cuts open up. Ibaka just gets docked a little bit because again he only grabbed 5 total rebounds.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

7 points on 2-10 shooting, 4 REB, 5 AST, 1 ST, 2 BL, 3 TO

Grade Comments
Grade_b_medium

Russell Westbrook played another strong game, but at a glance his performance might be obscured by his modest statistical numbers. Scoring only 7, which is well below his playoff average of almost 22 points per game, Westbrook instead did a good job investing his energies once again on the defensive end of the court. Westbrook again did a great job harassing Manu Ginobili (only 13 points, 6 TO's) and Daniel Green (7 points, 3-9 shooting). I love how he's embracing this defensive shut-down role, because he is perfectly suited to do it, and he is finally seeing the effort paying dividends. On top of that, Westbrook also was integral in setting up Kevin Durant down the stretch. He set a number of screens that allowed KD to pop open at the top of the key, which was his area of choice in sinking the Spurs.

More grades after the jump.

JAMES HARDEN

11 points on 4-13 shooting, 7 REB, 7 AST, 1 ST, 3 TO

Grade Comments
Grade_bplus_medium
James Harden had another weak shooting performance, but more than made up for it by once again running some outstanding pick-and-roll offense with the Thunder big men. In all, Harden totaled 7 assists on the night and was integral in helping Perkins, Collison, and Ibaka score 49 combined points on 22-25 shooting. Despite his poor overall shooting performance, Harden still came up huge in the 4th. He was the trigger man who delivered the ball to Durant time and time again, and he hit two huge 3-pointers in the 4th that kept the Thunder lead intact.



THABO SEFOLOSHA

6 points on 3-6 shooting, 6 REB, 1 AST, 1 ST

Grade Comments
Grade_b_medium
Thabo Sefolosha came back to earth a bit on the offensive end of the court in Game 4. After a career-defining Game 3, he wasn't able to reproduce statistically, but still managed to play outstanding defense against Tony Parker. Parker once again had a poor offensive night, scoring only 12 points on 5-15 shooting. Perhaps that is how we should consider Thabo's statistics from here on out - not by how well he shoots the ball, but by how poorly Parker shoots the ball.

DEREK FISHER

0 points on 0-4 shooting, 2 REB, 4 AST, 0 TO

Grade Comments
Grade_c_medium Derek Fisher had a rough night shooting once again, failing to make a single shot or score a single point. To his credit, he did manage to generate 4 assists on the night in only 16 minutes of action. It doesn't seem like a lot, and I wish OKC were getting more out of the backup guard position, but this is kind of the best-case scenario for Fisher. He plays limited minutes, doesn't take too many shots, and helps set up other players. Even if he misses most of them, that type of play isn't going to railroad the effort.


KENDRICK PERKINS

15 points on 7-9 shooting, 9 REB, 1 BL, 1 AST, 3 TO

Grade Comments
Grade_bplus_medium Kendrick Perkins...offensive juggernaut? Perhaps that label is a bit far-fetched, but Perkins has a way of surprising us on offense from time to time. Perkins opened the game with a long jumper, which is usually unsettling, but then followed it up by taking a number of shots with which we're more comfortable - short jump hooks, offensive put-backs, and finding holes in the defense after the OKC offense started to force Duncan to move around. He is going to be one of the biggest recipients of guys like Collison and Ibaka hitting jumpers - it forces Duncan to shift upward, which allows guys like him to slip behind the defense and receive the pass for the strong finish. He must continue to be a threat on offense this way if OKC is to continue its offensive growth.

NICK COLLISON

6 points on 3-3 shooting, 4 REB, 1 ST, 0 TO

Grade Comments
Grade_bplus_medium Nick Collison rounded out the trio of big men who really punished the Spurs inside. In total, the Thunder scored 48 points in the paint, which greatly offset the Spurs' own play on the interior. His output might seem small, but 3-3 shooting demonstrated that with him in the line-up, the Thunder offense continued to work. As long as it was working, the Thunder were able to open up more and more options to get their players involved.

SCOTT BROOKS

Grade Comments
Grade_a_medium Scott Brooks continued to make the right coaching adjustments in Game 4 so that the Thunder had a chance to win in the end. Brooks, just like his young players, is learning on the fly, and the biggest evidence of this was how he adjusted his team from Game 1 to Game 4. Like in Game 1, the Spurs were showing signs in the 2nd half that they were getting their offense rolling. They outscored the Thunder by 8 in the 3rd and were in the process of reeling off a huge 32 points in the 4th. In Game 1, Brooks did not counter great offense with great offense. In Game 4, he corrected that problem by running a high post for Kevin Durant repeatedly, and Durant delivered time and time again.
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