Thunder vs Spurs 2012 Western Conference Finals: Game 5 Grades

The Thunder are a win away from a Finals birth, and when we look back, Game 5 may be the turning point. Despite the fact that few of the Thunder players played great individually, the team persevered through numerous trials to come out in the end and are now up 3-2 in the series.

***

KEVIN DURANT

27 points on 10-19 shooting, 4 REB, 5 AST, 3 ST, 1 BL, 4 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_a_medium Kevin Durant struggled early, but his game definitely picked up later on. It wasn't a game of intense scoring for him, as he was pretty physically defended and didn't want to force shots. But where he really made his mark was defense. He did a good job of filling passing lanes, and all three of his steals led to scores. Plus, he didn't give much room to anyone he was guarding. Even though Gary Neal is a lot shorter than him, the fact that Durant had a perimeter block on him is a testament to how well Durant played on the defensive end tonight.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bplus_medium
Kevin Durant did not have the same 'hammer thrown' game as he did in Game 4, but he continued to display a performance in all aspects of the offense and defense that a championship team requires. Durant led the charge in the 2nd half of the 3rd quarter, when it appeared that the Thunder were beginning to waiver. His punctuation buzzer beater at the end of the 3rd served notice that he could take whatever the Spurs threw at him and return volley. With the Spurs paying more attention to him in the 4th, he deferred to his teammates and did not force anything. He only gets docked a few points because his rebounding wasn't up to par (OKC allowed 10 ORB's) and he committed 4 TO's on the night.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

23 points on 9-24 shooting, 4 REB, 12 AST, 4 ST, 1 BL, 6 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_c_medium
Russell Westbrook is such an enigma when it comes to overall impact. Many basketball analysts have debated his worth at the point guard position. But when it comes to how he's played in this series, that sentiment has been taken to an extreme. I can't really tell whether he's helping us or hurting us. As Sherman noted below, there's some moments where he's obviously playing a good game, but there's other where he's just out-of-control and making you cringe. But one thing I can't deny is that he hit a really clutch jumper with 1:36 to go. After nearly killing us with two turnovers. Waugh, I'll give him a C.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bminus_medium
I really wish I could get Russell Westbrook a higher grade for last night's performance, because in the first half he played the point position so, so well. He was setting up the offense so that the Spurs defense could not figure out what he was doing, he was darting around screens and hitting the open man, and was hitting some big shots to help carry his team when they struggled on offense. However, those three consecutive turnovers in the 4th really hurt, even if he wasn't primarily responsible for 2 of them. His struggles in engaging the offense late was a big reason why the Spurs had one more big run at the end. Even so, his jump shot with under 2 minutes to play was huge. Westbrook is fearless.

JAMES HARDEN

20 points on 6-11 shooting, 4 REB, 3 AST, 2 ST, 0 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aplus_medium
Seeing that shot live was like winning the lottery. Fear the beard, my friends.
Sherman's Grade Grade_a_medium
Just like his All-Star counterparts, James Harden has come to realize when it is his time to push his name to the front of the line and take the initiative. After a season where he barely shot at all in crunch time, Harden has proven that he can recognize when the shot is his, and his alone. His huge 4-point play in the 4th gave OKC a 13 point lead, and they needed every one of those as the Spurs closed to within 2 with under a minute to play. It was Harden that delivered the soul-crushing 3-pointer right in the face of Kawhi Leonard which pushed the lead back to 5 and was likely the deciding blow that OKC delivered to send the Spurs to their first home defeat in the playoffs.

More grades after the jump.

SERGE IBAKA

9 points on 4-6 shooting, 5 REB, 2 BL, 1 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_c_medium Ibaka didn't really follow up his great performance last night very well. Sure, his jumpers were falling, but he didn't do a very good job of taking advantage of the weak side for easy boards and scores. I remember a few times where Tim Duncan got the best of him in the post, and allowing that part of his game to flourish can really hurt the Thunder.

Sherman's Grade

Grade_bminus_medium
It is probably not fair of me to assign a lower grade to Serge Ibaka for his Game 5 performance, since he was the victim of 2 highly dubious foul calls in the first minute of the game, which sent him to the bench to stay for a long time. With only 20 minutes on the night, his production was limited. Even so, I have to dock him because he was not able to do a good enough job keeping the Spurs off of the offensive glass. The Spurs wound up with 10 total ORB's, and especially in the 1st half they used those put-backs to stay close when their offense stalled. I don't anticipate such limitations in his minutes in Game 6, but he must do a better job and pay attention to his box-out duties so that the defense's strong efforts aren't wasted by failing to secure missed shots.

DEREK FISHER

6 points on 2-6 shooting, 2 REB, 1 AST, 1 ST, 0 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_dplus_medium
Hmmmm. I wish Derek Fisher was 10 years younger, so we wouldn't be making excuses for keeping him on the floor. Sure, maybe his cool head is the sole reason the Thunder are doing well right now, but he only shows up for certain games.
Sherman's Grade Grade_cminus_medium

After a Game 1 performance that surpassed all expectations, Derek Fisher has returned to earth and become the player we've kind of expected him to be. He is neither a plus nor a minus at this point, but rather just out there to serve as an off-guard while James Harden runs the offense. He played 22 minutes on the night and had little to show for it, while the player whose minutes he has soaked up - Cook - played 4 minutes and even with such paltry playing time still out-produced Fisher.

KENDRICK PERKINS

4 points, 10 REB, 2 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bplus_medium Where's the offense, Perk? After making such strides last game, it seems he was reduced to his usual fare of flat jumpers and putbacks. Rebounding is key though, and it may have been more important than getting opportunities down low.
Sherman's Grade Grade_b_medium
Even though the Thunder struggled in securing rebounds on the night, Kendrick Perkins did his part in grabbing 10 rebounds total. Tim Duncan finally had a solid game against Perkins on the night, scoring 18 points off of 7-10 shooting. I would have liked to see Perkins replicate his offensive effort from Game 4. While 15 points off of 7-9 shooting was unlikely, it did seem as if there were opportunities for Perkins to score when the Spurs started crowding out Durant and Westbrook. I think he should get a few more opportunities on offense in Game 6.

THABO SEFOLOSHA

5 points, 4 REB, 1 AST, 1 ST, 3 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_cminus_medium
His performance was mostly unmemorable, and with how well Ginobili played, I can't give him too high of a grade.
Sherman's Grade Grade_b_medium Thabo Sefolosha has returned to his standard level of play, where he never offers much on offense, but that isn't his primary job anyway. Tony Parker has said that Thabo isn't doing anything special, but I would have to disagree. He continues to deny Parker driving lanes, forces him into bad angles, and Parker by and large has been minimized in the series. If the Spurs lose, Parker's sub-par play will be a big reason why, and we can thank Sefolosha for that.

NICK COLLISON

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


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aminus_medium
During warmups, I saw Collison working a lot on his mid-range elbow jumper. He sank every single one I saw him take. Yet, seeing it in game is about as rare as a J.J. Redick block. I just don't get it. Still, for a backup big, he did what he needed to do, and played smart defense (including one or two charges) in extended minutes.
Sherman's Grade Grade_aminus_medium Nick Collison had to come in earlier than expected when Ibaka picked up two quick fouls in the first minute of play. After an early Spurs flurry, he did a great job helping the OKC front line settle down and play great defense through the first quarter. His contribution will never purely reflect in his stats, but Collison was integral in getting his team out to a halftime lead.

DAEQUAN COOK

8 points on 3-3 shooting in only 4 minutes


Grade Comments

Zorgon's Grade
Grade_aplus_medium Yay shooting!
Sherman's Grade Grade_aplus_medium

I am probably inflating Daequan Cook's grade here, but I don't care. He has been the forgotten man in these playoffs, ceding his minutes to Fisher. I think he needs to play, because he gives more of what Fisher is giving them now. I hope he gets some minutes in Game 6.

SCOTT BROOKS

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_dplus_medium I still can't get over how stale some of Brooks' plays are. A couple of his out of bounds plays went nowhere (especially the one where the Spurs gained possession and could have tied the game) and some pre-designed players just had guys waiting in certain spots, waiting to get the ball stolen on an ill-fated lob. And he doesn't play Daequan Cook.
Sherman's Grade Grade_b_medium
Scott Brooks didn't apply any major changes on the night, and he probably did not have to. The biggest challenges he faced were having to play Nick Collison more when Ibaka got into trouble, which is not a terrible thing, and figuring out what to do with Manu Ginobili in the starting line-up.
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