2013 NBA Playoffs: Thunder vs Rockets, OKC player grades for game 3

J.A. Sherman

Faced with playing a game without Russell Westbrook for the first time, the Thunder had to dig deep.

The Oklahoma City Thunder played without Russell Westbrook for the first time since he entered the league. OKC got off to a roaring start, but eventually hit a wall in the 3rd and limped toward the finish line. How did each player help hold things together to escape game 3 with a 104-101 win?

Game 3's graders are J.A. Sherman and Ramona.

***

KEVIN DURANT

41 points on 13-30 shooting, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 4 turnovers, 1 amazing shot


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_aplus_medium
Before the game, KD said that basketball is the best therapy for what the team had gone through the day before. He, then, he came out and played inspired basketball. The doctor was in.
Sherman Grade_a_medium An A+ start to game 3 took a downward turn through the 2nd half as Durant's amazing opening sequence began to turn into a nightmare. Durant could not have played better in that 1st half, but as the game slowed down and he began to force things, KD enabled the Rockets caught up and retook the lead. However, Durant self-corrected in the end, making key passes and nailing a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it 3-pointer that gave the Thunder the lead for good.

SERGE IBAKA

17 points on 7-14 shooting, 11 rebounds,2 blocks, 1 turnover


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_aplus_medium 50% shooting from the field including a huge basket with less than two minutes to go in the fourth. His rebounding was solid. He had two blocks, but that last one late in the game was huge. He literally erased two points. All bigs get a + for their work against Asik.
Sherman Grade_aminus_medium
Serge Ibaka must have amazing patience. His ever-improving ability to finish plays is one of the elements of OKC's offense that is frequently undersold. Yet he has the purest mid-range jumper on the team, and he has a knack for making plays at the end. How is it then that he disappears through vast stretches? Big props to Ibaka for helping the Thunder avoid an embarrassment though. In the final 3 minutes, he hit a big turnaround jumper, a ridiculous blind shot-clock beating layup, and finally read the Rockets' last gasp 3-point attempt beautifully and challenged Carlos Delfino into the miss.

REGGIE JACKSON

14 points on 3-6 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_bplus_medium
After an emotional ride of losing a teammate and getting his first NBA start, Reggie filled the void as best he could. This was a wild one, so he didn’t get many chances to drive and kick, but when called on to shoot, he was 50% from the field and beyond the arc. He was 100% at the free throw line, including two giant makes, giving the Thunder a 3-point lead.
Sherman Grade_b_medium
Reggie Jackson hurt his cause by picking up some fouls early on and thereby limited his time on the court. However, once he was there, Jackson continued to improve by producing points in a very efficient manner. He was also playing along side Durant, who was hell-bent on beating the Rockets almost by himself. What I love the most is 1) Jackson continues to shoot 3's with confidence (2-4) and he was unafraid to take the foul at the end of the game and sink the free throws that helped seal the win. That said, I think Jackson has another level that he can get to in these playoffs, where he really starts to attack.

KENDRICK PERKINS

2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnovers


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_cplus_medium
In a fast pace game like this one, Perk didn’t get a lot of minutes. Still, I thought he was above average. I give him a pass on that first illegal screen. The game would not have been the same without it.
Sherman Grade_c_medium
We're a broken record, but this simply isn't a series where Perkins is going to give a lot of positive influence on the court. The pace is too fast and the Rockets play too small. Fortunately Scott Brooks seems to realize this and kept Perk to only 16 minutes.

THABO SEFOLOSHA

3 points on 1-7 shooting, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_bminus_medium
Thabo played hustle defense against Harden, especially in the first half. He helped out big time on the boards grabbing those 9 rebounds. His struggles were on the offensive end. However, the offense was in shambles for the most part. Still, he gets the minus for not knocking down open shots.
Sherman Grade_bminus_medium Sefolosha's shot was off tonight, which made things particularly harrowing when OKC's only offensive option appeared to be Durant. However, Thabo continued to work hard against James Harden, limiting him to a 9-22 shooting night. Harden is Houston's only offense, so he's going to continue to get his 30. Thabo's job is simply to make it as difficult as possible.

DEREK FISHER

9 points on 3-6 shooting, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steals, 1 block, 0 turnovers


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_a_medium Derek’s value goes up as Reggie’s backup. He was a calming factor on the floor, filling in well with 50% shooting. Fisher knocked down a couple of free throws down the stretch and with seconds to go in he game, he clogged up the passing lane, intercepting Harden’s pass that could have put the Rockets on top.
Sherman Grade_a_medium

Credit where credit is due; Fisher was exactly the kind of positive experiential influence that a young team facing the loss of its star player needed. While Fisher's performance is still less than ideal, he complimented Jackson well as his backup and did not turn the ball over.

KEVIN MARTIN

12 points on 3-11 shooting, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_cminus_medium
Kevin started the game on fire, but then went cold somewhere in the middle. Even though, the offense was chaotic at times, a bit like "take what you’re given," as the third scoring option, he needs to help KD out by creating more offense.
Sherman Grade_d_medium This could have been a great coming out party for Martin, who played last season in Houston and could have been a tremendous homecoming. Unfortunately, Martin missed some wide open jumpers in the 4th quarter that could have really aided in the ultimate win. He continues to keep his head in the game, but part of me feels like he's mostly working on the wrong side of the court, while avoiding his better side (left side).

NICK COLLISON

6 points on 2-9 shooting, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 0 turnovers


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_bplus_medium It’s hard to judge what all Nick does. It’s very rare that he has a bad shooting night. In only 17 minutes of play, he still managed 6 rebounds.
Sherman Grade_cplus_medium
It is a rare thing, but Collison had a bad shooting night. Ordinarily, the shots he got would have culminated in a double-digit scoring night, but he just missed. He will continue to have good scoring opportunities though, so I don't mind his higher shot count.

DEANDRE LIGGINS

0 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_a_medium DeAndre did what he was asked to do which was to insert energy into the game and bring defensive pressure while resting Sefolosha. In addition to that, in just 5 ½ minutes, he had one assist which tied both Jackson and Fisher who had more substantial minutes.
Sherman Grade_a_medium Liggins is probably going to see his role grow as we move along in these playoffs. Thankfully, he seems unafraid to bring the energy. While his shot is pretty shaky, I have a feeling that his hustle plays are going to evolve into actual offensive output. Good effort.

SCOTT BROOKS


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_d_medium
If the game had ended at half, he would have been hailed as a motivator, able to rally the troops. But, there was the 3rd quarter where the Thunder shot 5 for 25. His decision to simply ride the KD-wave likens him, unfortunately, more to a spectator.
Sherman Grade_bplus_medium
A lot of people are going hard on Brooks today, and I understand completely. However, I take a different tack, because he was facing a situation that was a complete unknown - how do you account for the loss of your team's emotional leader and a guy who is so competitive that Kobe sees personal similarities? I am reminded of something Jeff Van Gundy said about Westbrook and the Thunder during the Finals - they need to be permitted to win or lose on their own terms. In game 3, Brooks gave Durant the freedom to win or lose on his own terms. While the formula was college hoops level at best and not likely repeatable, I give Brooks props for having the courage to do it and live with the consequences.

BONUS: RUSSELL WESTBROOK


Grade Comments
Ramona Grade_aplus_medium On his facebook page, Russ thanked everyone for all the phone calls, texts, and messages of support. During KD’s amazing game, he posted and tweeted, "MVP! MVP!" After the game, he sent the team encouragement with another post and tweet, "1 more. Thunder up." We all know how difficult it is for Russ to sit by, only watching. I can’t wait for when he is able to return to the sideline.
Sherman Grade_aplus_medium We all think we know Russell Westbrook. We think we know his faults, his imperfections, and his emotional state. This is, of course, foolishness. The ones that know Westbrook are his family and his teammates, and they, from Sam Presti on down, understand what he brings to the table, not just in terms of his performance, but how his intense personality has built a winning culture in OKC. In game 3, we saw his imprint on the team, how they refused to give in to their emotions and the Rockets' desperation. Westbrook wasn't there in body, but he was there in spirit.
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