Thunder vs Spurs 2012 Playoffs Round 3: Final Player Grades

The Thunder defeated the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, 4-2. If you hit the rewind machine and take a look at the professionals' predictions, almost all of them had the Spurs beating the Thunder in 5 or 6 games. Even though they recognized OKC's ability to play at a high level, nobody gave them, and their defense specifically, a chance to slow down the Spurs' elite offense (this group includes myself as well). After two games, those pros looked like they knew what they were talking about.

It is a good thing OKC didn't care.

After two home games that helped the Thunder regain their confidence and then prove to everyone that they had a viable solution to the Spurs' offense, the script began to change. Everything culminated in a massive Game 5 win. With the Spurs on the ropes, everything that is great about both of these two teams came out in Game 6. In the first half, we once again saw the Spurs' offense, led by Tony Parker, carve up the OKC defense. In the second half, we saw how this young but maturing Thunder team made all of the necessary adjustments, caught the Spurs in the 3rd, and closed it out for the win.

Round 1 Final Player Grades

Round 2 Final Player Grades

***

KEVIN DURANT

29.5 PPG, 7.5 REB, 5.3 AST, 1.3 BL, 1.7 ST, 2.5 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade

Grade_aplus_medium

His point production was always consistent and high, with his only somewhat lackluster performance coming during Game 3, which was a blowout anyway. His rebounding and assist numbers remain high, and he really stepped it up defensively with blocks and steals. And even though he never had the all-heralded 40 point game, he pretty much took over Game 4 in the fourth quarter. There's no way you can't give him the highest grade in this series.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_a_medium
Kevin Durant has grown stronger and stronger as the playoffs have gone on, and he culminated it by leading his team to a remarkable come-from-behind series win against what was the best team in the NBA. It is remarkable how far Durant's overall game has come along over these past two seasons, as he has realized that he has the ability to dominate in more aspects than just scoring. He shot a remarkable 53.2% for the series and his shot selection was the biggest aspect of his ability to finish plays consistently. It was great to see that Durant was at his best when the stakes were highest. The only reason I give him a slightly lower grade than Zorgon is because the Thunder had an opportunity to steal Game 1, and Durant played a little too timidly in the 4th quarter, which led to the Spurs' come-from-behind win.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

18.2 PPG, 5.8 REB, 7.3 AST, 1.0 BL, 1.5 ST, 3.3 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aminus_medium
Compared to previous series, where we thought Westbrook had evolved into an unstoppable scoring threat, this series seems like a huge disappointment on that end. He would often hoist up tough shots that looked horrible if they missed, and his turnovers were above regular season levels. But we saw him able to contribute in different ways, which could have been the difference for the Thunder in this series. He didn't necessarily change his game and go to being a pass-first point guard. But he dominated the ball much more when he was in the game, managing to hoist up just as many shots as in previous series while cranking up his assist totals. The willingness of the Spurs offense to commit more than one defender to the driving player really helped Westbrook's cause, but so did his improved court vision and ability to improvise. His defense on Parker was really good, and totally masked his bad shooting performance on certain nights. Still, it's hard giving Westbrook a grade. He did have some poor shooting percentages and turnover numbers, but that might have been necessary to give some flow to the offense. Eh, I'll give him an A- and hope it's not too high or low.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_bplus_medium Russell Westbrook has essentially been on trial in the court of public opinion all season long, receiving more criticism and scrutiny than just about any other player not named 'LeBron James.' He has answered those critics by becoming the team's best scorer in the first two rounds, realizing he can become a shut-down defender, and toyed with the other team's defenses. In the 3rd round, Westbrook continued to show his development by reducing his scoring attempts and becoming a more traditional point guard, consistently setting up his teammates. He was a bit wild at times as he is still learning how to create the best attacking angles, but his Game 6 performance was huge in helping the Thunder close out the Spurs. Westbrook also had one Jordan-esque slam.

JAMES HARDEN

18.5 PPG, 5.5 REB, 3.7 AST, 1.2 ST, 1.8 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_b_medium
James Harden has a lot of nicknames, but this guy is Mr. Fourth Quarter. He had a big hand in the Thunder's victories in Game 5 and 6 through his late game play, and this Finals appearance might not have been without him. His rebounding numbers are absurd for someone his size, and he remains the defacto backup PG, handling the ball well. But his shooting in games 1, 4, and 6 was painful, and his turnovers were somewhat of a problem. He also fouled out once against Ginobili, who, generally speaking, tore up the Thunder in this series. All in all, I'll give him a B. His overall impact was positive, but there were a few bumps along the road.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_bplus_medium
Harden had an uneven series, which was a byproduct of his continued development as a player that other teams must plan for. As we've often written, it is easy for a backup when the other team just has to play defense agains him; it is quite another when that team starts actual defensive game-planning against the backup, and that is what Harden has faced in these playoffs. As a result, the Spurs really took him out of his game in Game 1, and he played well short of his standards in Game 4. However, Harden came on strong in Games 5 & 6, hitting perhaps the shot of the series when he buried the Spurs on their home court with a 3-pointer with under 30 seconds to play. He knows when it is his time to step up, and he did his job well.

More grades after the jump.

SERGE IBAKA

12.0 PPG, 5.7 REB, 0.3 AST, 2.7 BL, 0.8 ST, 1.0 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bplus_medium
After some terrible performances that may have very well cost the Thunder Games 1 and 2, Serge Ibaka finally found his shot and became a reliable scorer. He was 11 of 11 in his 26 point Game 4 performance, but other than that small miracle, he could consistently get the Thunder certain points. Overall, his defensive performance was par for the course. He wasn't as valuable as Perkins, who had to guard Tim Duncan, but he got his blocks, didn't foul out, and got the job done.

Sherman's
Grade
Grade_b_medium Ibaka's Game 4 performance will go down as one of his career highlights, as it should. Ibaka also had other strong offensive performances in both Games 3 and 6, hitting his mid-range jumper just enough to muddy up the Spurs' defensive rotations. I can't give him a higher grade though because in the series Ibaka was well below his normal defensive and rebounding standards. He only hit double-digit rebounding 1 time, and he was frequently picked on by Tim Duncan in the post. Defending Duncan is understandable, but getting so few rebounds is not. He needs to be a bigger force on the defensive boards in the Finals, and if he can be, it will free up Durant to get out on the break instead of having to grab the rebound himself and initiate things.

DEREK FISHER

7.2 PPG, 1.7 REB, 2.2 AST, 0.7 ST, 0.3 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade

Grade_a_medium

Derek Fisher. Oh, what to do with you. You'll be in the league another 10 years at this rate. You're actually keeping in front of Tony Parker and hitting series-clinching shots again. You're not running the offense, but you're moving the ball well and doing a good job of settling the Thunder offense down. Sure, you had a couple of off games, but you destroyed my expectations. So I'm throwing out As like a madman.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_b_medium

I do believe that Fisher's presence is going to drive Zorgon crazy. The thing is, if you look across Fisher's entire box score, you can see that aside from Game 1, he didn't really have what you'd call a great series. He didn't shoot the ball well, he was at times a defensive liability, and he had me bleeding out my eyes as he got more minutes in Game 5, a game when the other backup Cook looked like he was about to catch on fire. But then, we had Game 6. Fisher played great defense on Tony Parker, he did not turn the ball over, and during the biggest stretch of the 4th, buried a 3-pointer and another 2-pointer that helped keep the Thunder out in front. Maybe Fisher just likes making the Spurs suffer.

KENDRICK PERKINS

5.8 PPG, 6.2 REB, 0.8 AST, 1.3 BL, 0.5 ST, 2.0 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_cminus_medium
Honestly, I'm having a hard time giving Perkins a bad grade, because he was so essential at keeping Duncan out of the paint early in the series, and he even found some offense in Game 4. Still, you can't ignore the fact that Duncan was by and large destroying Perkins in the latter part of the series, and that Perkins' foul trouble really limited his game later on. Plus, his turnovers were much higher than usual, and he was too slow to guard Duncan's 12 foot shot, which was continually exploited. Thus, I'm throwing him a C-.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_bminus_medium
Perkins played a steady series most of the time, and he did have one "what the hey?" game in Game 4 when he shot 7-9 for 15 points. I give him high marks not necessarily for his on-the-ball work against Tim Duncan, but for the way that Perkins was sort of the quarterback for the Thunder's defensive effort in Games 3 through 6. They were trying to stop a high-octane offense, and all they needed to do was to slow down the Spurs just a little bit, and that slight drop would give their own offense a chance to take over. Perkins led the OKC defense very well, coordinating the effort to keep Parker out of the lane and the rotations covering the Spurs shooters.

DAEQUAN COOK

2.5 PPG, 0.3 REB, 0.0 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_a_medium
Four minutes, 8 points. All you need to know. Give this guy some burn.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_bplus_medium

See above. Maybe the Thunder didn't need Cook's offense as much as I would have liked, but it is there, and man when he's hitting it, Cook can fill up the box score in a hurry. I think he is going to play a bigger role in the next round, when OKC is going to see far tougher perimeter defenses.

THABO SEFOLOSHA

8.0 PPG, 4.3 REB, 1.0 AST, 0.3 BL, 2.3 ST, 0.7 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_aminus_medium
He's the glue that holds this team together. While he'll never score over about 10 points in important minutes (his Game 4 performance was mostly in garbage time), his points can come at the most critical of times. His offensive game hasn't been this ballsy since he left Fenerbahce Ulker. I honestly can't remember how effective his defense was overall, but he did a good job of filling passing lanes and avoiding silly fouls.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_bplus_medium Sefolosha's charge in Game 3 was to guard Parker. Not only did Thabo do this, but he in effect altered the entire trajectory of the WCF series. Once OKC realized that they could control Parker, the team got a huge shot of confidence on both ends of the court and began to play much more aggressively. I loved the way Sefolosha was challenging every shot and passing lane that he could get close to, and it really spoke volumes how his teammates kept looking to him on offense even though his name isn't Durant, Westbrook, or Harden. I'd love to see him keep looking for his offense.

NICK COLLISON

4.2 PPG, 3.3 REB, 0.5 AST, 0.2 BL, 1.0 ST, 0.5 TO


Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bminus_medium
His minutes were really limited, and they were only notable mostly because he had to guard Tim Duncan sometimes. Otherwise, his most notable moments during this series were probably a streak of 6 points early in Game 4 and a couple of charges he took in Game 5. Not too good, not too bad, but at the end of the day, there's a reason his minutes decreased as the series went on.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_b_medium Collison did not get nearly as much playing time as I would have thought. Even though he is not as strong or as big of a leaper as Ibaka, I thought he should have gotten more chances to try and guard Duncan while Perkins was out of the game. Even so, Collison made the most of his opportunities, and managed to shoot 71% from the floor. He did a great job finding his spots on the offensive end, and held things together just enough to prevent the Spurs from getting too many easy layups at the rim.


SCOTT BROOKS

Grade Comments
Zorgon's Grade Grade_bplus_medium
At the end of the day, he got the job done. He made some nice adjustments in Game 6, and used his rotations well overall. I'm still not too impressed with his playcalling, and he used a few questionable lineups in Games 1 and 2. But I've gotta give it up to the man: He did what was necessary to win.

Sherman's Grade
Grade_aminus_medium
Scott Brooks faced the best coach in the NBA, and he not only was able to change the course of the series completely after Game 2, but then made all the adjustments necessary to give the Thunder a leg up the rest of the way. It is important to note that Brooks didn't just make subtle changes in his strategy, but major shifts in how his team was approaching the defensive end. The payoff was that the Thunder forced the Spurs to adjust on the fly, and Popovich never found the right mix. Brooks also got more out of his bench than the Spurs did from their more heralded bench, making a huge difference in the final outcome.
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Welcome to Loud City

You must be a member of Welcome to Loud City to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Welcome to Loud City. You should read them.

Join Welcome to Loud City

You must be a member of Welcome to Loud City to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Welcome to Loud City. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker