Game 5 grades: Thunder so close, yet now far from player goals

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder are on the brink of elimination and the players have to face the reality that they're not performing at the level they need. Here is our assessment.

The Thunder dropped a heartbreaking game 5 on their home court, falling to the Grizzlies 100-99. They had a chance to win the game in OT, but Serge Ibaka's rebound-tip shot came after the buzzer sounded. Here is how each player performed during this crushing defeat.

Game 1 Grades

Game 2 Grades

Game 3 grades

Game 4 grades

***

Durant_medium

KEVIN DURANT GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game stats)
52 26 8 2 0 0 6 +1
CHRIS Grade_cminus_medium
KD’s body language is looking a lot like "Lebron James 2010 vs. Celtics." He looks tired, confused, frustrated and unconfident. Whether it’s missing clutch free throws, not coming close on big jumpers down the stretch, or just not being in command of the offense the way he was all season, he’s a different player. He’s admitted Tony Allen is in his head, but it’s to the point where, as an MVP, he needs to find a way to snap out of it. Because for the first time in what feels like forever, it was hard to trust that his last-second heave – which, by the way, he had plenty of time to find a better shot or have a better play drawn up for him (ahem, Brooks) – would actually fall. The Reaper magic has simply vanished, and it may be too late to get it back.
SHERMAN Grade_cplus_medium
Durant moves up on his grade this game, but only because he has struggled so greatly in the previous ones. We finally saw some flashes of Durant's tenacity on offense, where he was working to get to the spots where he can convert. However, there were far too high a number of shots that were not consistent with what made Durant so great this season. He can't seem to drive the ball and isn't getting any fouls called in his favor, he is rushing open jumpers and forcing longer ones. The final shot was case in point. With nearly 3 seconds to go, Durant had plenty of time to receive the ball, give a head fake, and then take off for the rim. Instead, we got...more heartache.

Westbrook_medium

RUSSELL WESTBROOK GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game stats)
48 30 10 13 1 1 4 +1
CHRIS Grade_b_medium
Russell Westbrook had a triple-double. Russell Westbrook took 31 shots. Russell Westbrook had a ridiculously clutch steal/dunk to force overtime.  Russell Westbrook shot 3-17 on shots outside the restricted area. The point is, Russell was Russell just as he’s been all series. And much as we can complain about him taking too many shots, notice how many of those come from him having to improvise as the offense breaks down around him. It’s been this way forever – again, coaching – but so many times it’s a matter of Durant not being open, the rest of the offense standing around, and Westbrook having to make something out of nothing. It can result in some nice assists, like that pass to Perkins in overtime, but it’s of course going to also result in some bad shots because what else is he supposed to do?
SHERMAN Grade_bplus_medium
This game encapsulated everything that makes Westbrook so polarizing. He corralled a triple-double against a great defense, but I'd be hard pressed to say that he played well. He played with impact for sure, but that impact helped both teams out. He made a game-saving play at the end of regulation, but then in OT he continued his struggles, failing to make a basket for the 4th straight extra period. It is funny to say it, but Westbrook needs structure in order to excel. When he has structure, he knows where everyone is going to be and he willingly makes good passes. Without structure, which is what we saw in game 5, you get 31 shot attempts.
Sefolosha_medium

THABO SEFOLOSHA GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game stats)
9 0 0 2 0 1 0 -6
CHRIS Grade_dplus_medium
When Caron Butler is making shots, it sort of renders Sefolosha moot. His absence during the regular season seemed to prove his value as a defender, and yet he has yet to impact a game defensively the way a so-called "stopper" is expected to. It’s looking more and more like these may be the last games we see of Sefolosha in a Thunder uniform.
SHERMAN Grade_c_medium
Thabo Sefolosha did not get a lot of run time in game 5, and I'm puzzled as to why. For 2.5 quarters, the Thunder defense was anemic, most specifically on the perimeter as Mike Conley was working the drive game and Mike Miller was working the long range game. A defensive specialist might have helped a bit on that, no?

Ibaka_medium

SERGE IBAKA GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
43 15 12 1 0 0 1 0
CHRIS Grade_aminus_medium
Serge Ibaka had 12 rebounds, 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Once again it was a matter of Ibaka playing well, and then not being involved in the offense when the game is on the line. That once again comes back to the lack of an offensive system. It’s on Ibaka and Westbrook/Durant to improvise and run pick-and-rolls when they can, but it doesn’t seem like they are using that nearly as much as they did in the regular season. Again, is it up to the players to just orchestrate their own offense, or are they calling sets from the sidelines? Seems more and more like the latter isn’t true. The Thunder had defensive lapses early, but Ibaka’s D (along with the rest of the guys) helped key that late run as well.
SHERMAN Grade_bplus_medium
I really, really wanted that shot to count.
Perk_medium

KENDRICK PERKINS GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
25 2 8 2 0 0 1 -8
JUAN Grade_b_medium
Brooks went small for that big run that got the Thunder back in it, then went back to Perkins in the end. He had a key layup on a Westbrook assist in overtime, and his defense on Randolph and Gasol continues to be solid, particularly in clutch moments. Who would have thought Kendrick Perkins’ play in this series would be easier to defend than Kevin Durant’s?
JUSTIN Grade_b_medium I think it says a lot to the struggles of Durant, Westbrook, and the Thunder offense as a whole that nobody is criticizing Kendrick Perkins in this series. Granted this is the kind of series where Perk thrives, but I was impressed with Perkins' ability to stay with his defense on Zach Randolph after ZBo got off to the fast start. He also hit a big shot in OT that nearly helped OKC get the win.

Jackson_medium

REGGIE JACKSON GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
39 6 5 2 0 1 6 +6
CHRIS Grade_c_medium
After the game of his life on Saturday, Jackson once again went back to laying low. Except after the Thunder took it’s lead in the fourth, when the offense began running through Westbrook and Jackson for way too long. The thing is, it didn’t work all that well. He can tell with Jackson usually by halftime what you’ll get from him. When he’s confident he’s driving and finishing in ways you didn’t even think he could. But then there are games like this, when he is completely content sitting back unless he has someone with him forcing the issue. That’s when you see 2-for-7 shooting because the only shots he’s taking are ones he isn’t confident in. It’s been said over and over, but he’s an X-factor, and he needs to be better-than-OK for the team to have a chance.
SHERMAN Grade_cminus_medium
A pretty big fall-off for the 3rd year PG who played the game of his life in game 4. Some of it was his fault, like the 6 turnovers, but the problem the Thunder have is widespread. Without an offensively reliable way to move the ball to secondary options, and when Durant & Westbrook are on the floor Jackson IS a secondary option, he's not going to get good looks unless he creates them himself.

Adams_medium

STEVEN ADAMS GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0
CHRIS Grade_a_medium
Steven Adams played one minute and he recorded a block. So if he played all 48, he would have had 48 and the Grizzlies wouldn’t have scored as much. I think that’s what that means.
SHERMAN Grade_a_medium We'll call this Kiwi inflation. Fortunately for Brooks he isn't getting burned by staying with Perkins most of the time.
Collison_medium

NICK COLLISON GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
11 0 1 1 0 0 0 -5
CHRIS Grade_dplus_medium
RIP Nick Collison two-man game with Thunder Player X. I have no idea how you passed away, but I miss you every day.
SHERMAN Grade_cminus_medium
Collison used to thrive against this Memphis team. As Charles Barkley often says, Father Time is undefeated.

Butler_medium

CARON BUTLER GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
27 15 5 0 0 0 0 +9
CHRIS Grade_bplus_medium
He was huge during that run to the get the Thunder back in it, and proved why the team went after him to begin with. Still, you look at how a guy like Mike Miller only hits the absolute biggest backbreakers, like the two in overtime, and you start to wish Butler and Fisher could do something like that when the Westbrook/Durant offense breaks down like it always seems to this series. But it’s hard to complain too much about 4-of-8 from 3-point range.
SHERMAN Grade_aminus_medium
The Thunder converted yet another 4-point play, and in a critical situation. Caron Butler is hit or miss, but in this game he was a big positive. Here's the thing though; he's so incredibly predictable that the Thunder need to be careful how they use him. He's either firing up the 3-pointer or he's taking a step-back jumper from 18 feet. I'm fine with the former. Not so much with the latter.

Fisher_medium

DEREK FISHER GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
10 5 1 1 0 0 0 -3
CHRIS Grade_cminus_medium
Fisher only got 10 minutes. It’s one of those things where we all kind of called for him to get less, only now that it’s happening this late, it’s sort of infuriating in itself. Why bother having him play all those minutes in the regular season then? Why not use them to develop the younger guys during that time so that maybe they could give 8-12 minutes in a big playoff moment? I don’t know, man, it’s all just getting beyond frustrating at this point.
SHERMAN Grade_c_medium
I second the above statement fully. On top of that, this game was a perfect reminder that Fisher can do some things but not other things. When OKC set him up for good shot attempts, he shot the ball with confidence. Any time he was in a situation where he had to create offense, disaster unfolded and possessions were wasted. Please, don't put Fisher in a situation where he has to create offense.

Brooks_medium

SCOTT BROOKS Coaching Grade
CHRIS Grade_dminus_medium
Coming into this series, it didn’t even cross my mind that Scott Brooks could potentially lose his job if the Thunder lost the series. That’s how terribly Brooks has mangled this whole thing. It went from not being in my mind, to being like "yeah, maybe, but only if they don’t make any changes," to where I am now. That is, this team continues to face the same issues they’ve been facing since 2011. The offense goes through dry spells, and rather than having any semblance of an offensive system to fall back on, it’s on the players to just fight through it and "hit more shots," as he harps over and over in his postgame pressers. Look, when you have Durant and Westbrook, you want them to have freedom. But look at Miami. That first season of the Big 3, they had a lot of the same issues the Thunder have – and have had for as long as they’ve been a contender. It changed when it caught up to them in the Dallas Finals and they had the same issues of each guy trying independently to take over. Spoelstra put in the work and found a way to get them to play off one another, and also feed other guys when possible. Now, they can turn it off and on when necessary. The Thunder doesn’t have that, and when they aren’t on, as they seemingly never can be against this brilliant Memphis defense, they look overwhelmed and awful. And it makes Scott Brooks look incredibly stubborn. And replaceable.
SHERMAN Grade_d_medium
I actually feel like this grade is a little unfair because it has less to do with this game, which Brooks coached adequately if unspectacularly, and more about his preparation leading up to this series. All of the team's flaws are becoming exposed, and the fact that Brooks has neither advanced his team's offensive system or figured out how to even construct a varied end of period play does not bode well for the Thunder's future, both immediate and far off.

Thunder_medium

TEAM GRADE GRADE FG% 3P% AST REB BL ST TO
(Game Stats)
39.1% 38.7% 24 51 3 2 17
CHRIS Grade_c_medium
All of this negativity to this point, but all it takes is a win in Game 6 to have a chance. They've shown they can win in Memphis. They still haven't lost in regulation in this series. Every time they've gotten desperate, they've found a way to force the issue. Maybe the fact that it's now officially win or go home, the desperation switch will turn on earlier. You would hope they would come out with some sort of gameplan. Maybe have Durant in more of a creator role. Maybe have Ibaka involved in more designed sets. Maybe have an idea of whether they want to go small for a longer stretch, or stay big and just clamp down on D and make it tough for the impaired Memphis offense. You would hope for these things. But as this series goes on and on, and the same mistakes keep creeping up over and over again, the same mistakes that have plagued the team literally for the past four postseasons, you start to wonder how much hope you have left.
SHERMAN Grade_dplus_medium
This might seem like a harsh grade, but in fact what it says is that OKC can play putrid basketball against a great team for huge portions of the game and still have a chance to win in the end because for some random 10 minute stretch OKC played out of their collective minds. OKC was bad on both ends for much of the first half, and fell behind by 20 in the 3rd. And then...in the blink of an eye, they had their first lead. And right then, at that juncture, they could have kept their foot on the gas by doing the things that enabled them to recover, but instead they reverted to every bad habit that has plagued them. Durant barely even touched the ball, but instead was turned into a "floor spacer." OKC had every opportunity to put the game away, and yet their sub-par play, which actually still gave them the lead, cost them a chance at taking control of this series.  It feels like the Thunder have been playing catch up every game. It is time to reverse that trend.

*All player images via US Presswire

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