Thunder vs Spurs 2012 Western Conference Finals: Game 6 Grades

The Thunder played a gallant Game 6, winning both the game and the Western Conference Finals series. Things looked bleak at first, but their perseverance, dedication to one another and their system, along with some greatness from their MVP, enabled them to recover in time and win in the end. Onward march.

***

KEVIN DURANT

34 points on 9-17 shooting, 12-15 from FT line, 14 REB, 5 AST, 1 ST, 2 BL, 2 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aplus_medium
As Sherman says below, his grade isn't really made through his points. Rather, it's through the sheer amount of rebounds he got as a small forward. Sure, he played 48 minutes, but four of his boards came during the fourth quarter. And even though he was pretty exhausted by the end of the game and didn't have much of a shot, he was still able to get to the line and contribute to the Thunder's point totals. And 5 assists? Two of them were really sick passes into the paint. Heck, he took his first charge of the season tonight. His scoring was only a bit above average (KD average, that is), but he absolutely killed it everywhere else.
Sherman's Grade Grade_a_medium
Kevin Durant ended this series hitting all the right notes that you need from your superstar and team leader. He produced points when he had to and did it on good shot attempts, he set up his teammates when he had to, and he was an absolute monster on the defensive glass, grabbing 14 huge rebounds. His rebounding total cannot be understated; one of the ways the Spurs could have recovered was by grabbing offensive rebounds, yet time and time again KD reached up as high as his 6'10" frame and 7' wingspan would let him, preventing the Spurs from getting valuable tip-outs and open looks.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

25 points on 9-17 shooting, 8 REB, 5 AST, 1 BL, 5 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_b_medium
Tonight was kind of par for the course in terms of Westbrook. You take the good with the bad. To be fair, one of his turnovers was simply a slip while running down the baseline, but the other three that took place in the second half were really bad mental errors. A bad pump fake that led to a travel. A wild lob to KD. An attempted pass over three Spurs in the paint while in the air on a drive to the basket. All of these look pretty bad in the context of an NBA game. But he's Westbrook, and his out of control play is going to get you some extremely clutch plays, like his crazy layup at the end of the game, or aggressive dunk over the Spurs early in the game, after they had bunched up on the wrong side of the floor. Still, his rebounds were definitely up, and his scoring was better than usual, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bplus_medium
Russell Westbrook finished a tough series by playing very good offensive ball, keeping his team in the game when they fell behind early. These last two games in particular have demonstrated tremendous growth in Westbrook's game awareness. In Game 6 he stuck to the shots he knew that he could make, shot a high percentage, and even worked his game inside to take advantage of his height and strength against Tony Parker. He also did a great job setting up his teammates, and his mediocre assist total is tampered by his teammates missing shots early on. His turnovers did hurt a little bit, but for the most part they came within the flow of the offense and not because he was playing too aggressively.

JAMES HARDEN

16 points on 4-9 shooting, 5 REB, 4 AST, 3 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aplus_medium
I kinda feel like tonight is what should be a pedestrian night for Harden. He's not always going to shoot well, and he's not always going to take care of the ball. But as long as he can hit shots when he absolutely needs to and make the positive outweigh the negative, the Thunder can win games. Tonight, his shooting wasn't hot early, so he played a controlled game later on and didn't force shots. He lost the ball a few times, so he relaxed and allowed other players to run the point. But most of all, he assisted or scored in four of the last 5 Thunder baskets in the game. It may not have been visible to the average fan, but by staying out of the spotlight, Harden was able to engineer this win, and turn his lemon of a game into lemonade. And for that, I say, Bravo.
Sherman's Grade Grade_b_medium
James Harden had an understated Game 6, but he still played an impact late in the game when the Thunder were working to build a lead. With the Thunder working to overtake the Spurs, Harden stepped up big in the 4th once again. He scored 8 points total, including a huge 3-pointer, and handed out 3 assists in the process. It was further proof that guys like Harden and Westbrook do not always have to transcend the moment for the team to win; they just need to perform their role well.

More grades after the jump.

SERGE IBAKA

10 points on 4-8 shooting, 4 REB, 2 BL, 2 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bminus_medium
Like Sefolosha, Ibaka was a huge part of the third quarter run. But to be honest, other than in that run, his presence wasn't felt tonight. His intangible numbers are par for the course, but his offense just wasn't there. Ibaka is a guy who does well in stretches, but he'd do well to learn to play more consistently.

Sherman's Grade

Grade_bminus_medium Serge Ibaka had another quiet game, despite playing much heavier minutes than in Game 5. He reached double-digit scoring, which was huge. Ibaka must be a scoring threat for the Thunder offense to work well. However he also had a really tough time securing defensive rebounds. Durant led the way with 14 defensive boards, but OKC really needs Ibaka to be helping out in this area as well. He is too tall and too athletic to not be securing at least 2 rebounds per quarter. He also had to battle Tim Duncan for stretches in the game, and while he was a willing defender, Timmay took him hard to the rim time and time again. There are still some things for the master to teach the student about post defense.

DEREK FISHER

9 points on 4-7 shooting, 1 AST, 1 ST, 0 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aplus_medium
When you're this clutch, I tend to throw away the rest of the game. Hey! Have you heard? It's the Fish that saved OKC.
Sherman's Grade Grade_a_medium

After two lackluster games, Derek Fisher showed up in a big way in Game 6. The key for Fisher is to never try to do more than he is capable, and his shot selection bore that out. He really only forced one shot, and that turned out to be a clutch bank-shot that he sunk with less than 2 minutes to play. Most important though, Fisher was assigned to Tony Parker for stretches in the 4th, and the old timer did really, really well against the younger and quicker Parker. Fisher got up into Parker's body, refused to allow him to come clean of of picks and turn the corner, and helped limit Parker to a mediocre 6 points in the final quarter of play.

KENDRICK PERKINS

4 points on 2-8 shooting, 3 REB, 2 AST, 2 ST, 1 BL, 1 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_dplus_medium
I know, all you wanna think about is Perk's block on Duncan late in the fourth. And, truth be told, that was an amazing play. But aside from a couple plays in the fourth and first, Perk was terrible tonight. Obviously, he can't defend Duncan beyond 8 feet because he's too slow and focused on help defense. But even then, I feel like Duncan outsmarted him on a cut or outmuscled him for a layup one too many times. Perk's main job is to be a defensive rock against Duncan in the paint. Luckily, he won't be going up against an opponent that's nearly as intimidating in the finals. Oh, and his offense was pretty bad, too.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bminus_medium
Kendrick Perkins' stat line was once again not eye-popping, but his job for the most part was to occupy Tim Duncan. Duncan played a really strong game as a result, and it wasn't until the very end when Duncan seemed to run out of gas that the Thunder defense got a consistent run of stops against the Spurs offense. Perkins often acts as a defensive tackle on the blocks so that other players can grab rebounds, but even then he should be able to snag more than 3 a game. His high point was slamming home the clinching basket that put the Thunder up 6 with 24 seconds to play.

THABO SEFOLOSHA

9 points on 4-5 shooting, 4 REB, 1 AST, 2 ST, 1 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aminus_medium
I kinda touched on this in my full recap, but Thabo hit a big momentum changing shot in the second quarter. It's something that's easily overlooked, but I think the Thunder were feeling overwhelmed at that point in the game, with the Spurs easily answering any shot the Thunder took. But to me, when Thabo Sefolosha crossed over Gary Neal and hit a jumper right in his face and then stopped Tony Parker in his tracks on the next possession, it sent a message. Later in the third, Sefolosha was a big part of the offensive run that got the Thunder back in the game. Sure, his defense might have been lacking, but his offensive improvement overlaps that, in my opinion.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bplus_medium For a half, we began to wonder where Thabo Sefolosha was. Parker was once again tearing up the defense, and the Thunder's Swiss weapon against the Frenchman was either not assigned to guard him or not getting the job done. That more than anything else is what made us nervous during the first half of Game 6. However, Sefolosha bounced back in the second half and maintained his brilliant defensive play against Parker, limiting him to only 8 2nd half points and 2 assists. On top of that, Sefolosha hit two huge baskets during the Thunder's comeback stretch, showing that the team trusts him to step up when needed.

NICK COLLISON

0 points, 4 REB, 1 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_c_medium
Nick Collison's bad plus minus tonight can be pretty much blamed on being put in a bad situation. He was in when the Thunder really needed offense, but all he could really provide was rebounds. Still, I don't blame Brooks for not putting him in later.
Sherman's Grade Grade_c_medium
It is probably better to grade Nick Collison with an incomplete, because he only played 7 minutes of the game, with both Perkins and Ibaka playing heavy minutes. Even in that limited stretch however, he still managed to grab 4 rebounds. I'm not sure why Collison didn't get a little bit more burn since both Perkins and Ibaka were having trouble with Duncan, but in the end the Thunder's rotation came out with the win so we can't second guess too much.

SCOTT BROOKS

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade

Grade_b_medium

I'll give him props for leaving his big players in the game and letting them work themselves out of a funk, and his boldness in going small late in the game. He knew the Spurs had changed their strategy by relying heavily on their big three, and that they really wouldn't be exploiting matchup advantages brought on by a small Thunder lineup. Still, he did let his team fall in a pretty heavy hole early on.
Sherman's Grade Grade_bplus_medium Scott Brooks found his team down by 18 points straight out of the gate. Earlier in this season, he also saw the Spurs run out to huge leads and was not able to manage his team back into the game. This time around however, Brooks found the right notes to hit. He stuck with an 8 man rotation for the entire game, never felt the need to change things up when the Thunder were struggling early, and motivated his team appropriately during the half-time break. OKC came out of that break and decided they would win the game, and Brooks played a big part in that.
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