Game 3 grades: Thunder role players shine in big win over Clippers

Stephen Dunn

The Thunder needed a strong showing in game 3 from everybody, and through the collection of every man down the bench, they got it. Here is how everyone performed!

The Oklahoma City Thunder needed a win in L.A. to retake home court advantage against the Clippers. In a blistering display of shotmaking, primary scoring, and supplemental support, OKC did just that. Here is how each player contributed!

Game 1 grades

Game 2 grades

***

Durant_medium

KEVIN DURANT GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game stats)
46 36 8 6 1 0 2 +2
JUAN Grade_aplus_medium
Kevin Durant has been a completely different player this series than he was against the Grizzlies. Whether that has to do with not dealing with Tony Allen, or not, it's a great thing for the Thunder. He logged 46 minutes and did what a superstar does: lead his team to a tough road playoff victory. He even played a little peacemaker between Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook at the end of the game. OH AND DON'T FOUL A GUY SHOOTING A HALF-COURT END OF THE QUARTER SHOT.
SHERMAN Grade_aplus_medium Kevin Durant seems to have returned to playing the mode of basketball that suits him best. He moves in and out of the primary scoring position, alternates between ball-handling and off-ball support, and in the process scores 36 points as easily as he gets out of bed in the morning. On top of that, KD got the chance to go up against DeAndre Jordan in the 4th as OKC went small, and Durant did an outstanding job keeping DJ away from the rim. If the Thunder can keep Durant in that role for long stretches without getting hurt badly, they present the Clippers with an almost impossible matchup dilemma.

Westbrook_medium

RUSSELL WESTBROOK GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game stats)
38 23 8 13 0 0 2 +3
JUAN Grade_aplus_medium
Russell Westbrook went toe-to-toe with Chris Paul and was very aggressive despite CP3 going for 21 points and 16 dimes. Westbrook also hit the biggest three of the game to put the Thunder up 4 after it seemed the Clippers had taken momentum of the game. Durant and Westbrook playing at this level has me thinking about June.
SHERMAN Grade_aplus_medium Westbrook is always going to have his naysayers. He's forged his own path, and there are a number of people who don't like the trail he has blazed as a scoring guard. I am pretty sure Westbrook doesn't care a wit, and those naysayers are missing the fact that Russ is now playing the PG position at a ridiculously high level, nearly averaging a triple-double in the past 5 playoff games. Did you see that grin he had on his face after he buried that dagger 3-pointer late in the 4th? That's Westbrook realizing that there is little to nothing the Clips defense can do to him to slow him down.
Sefolosha_medium

THABO SEFOLOSHA GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game stats)
15 1 2 2 0 0 0 -5
JUAN Grade_c_medium
After a great game two for Thabo Sefolosha, he had a subpar game in game three. He couldn't find the range from beyond-the-arc. We know what to expect out of Thabo on the defensive side.
SHERMAN Grade_c_medium Sefolosha came back to earth after a strong showing in game 2. I did like the fact that he was still aggressively looking for his shot, because perimeter scoring is essential to the Thunder's opening up lanes for Durant & Westbrook. He just didn't knock them down. He'll hopefully be back though, because his disruptiveness on the defensive perimeter is forcing L.A. to adjust their approach.

Ibaka_medium

SERGE IBAKA GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
29 20 6 0 1 0 3 0
JUAN Grade_a_medium
Serge Ibaka played the third weapon role perfectly Friday night. He only missed one shot in ten attempts and that was key because the Clippers were content on double-teaming KD off him and Ibaka made them pay. I would have like to see Ibaka a little more active on defense and on the glass, but a really nice game from Ibaka.
SHERMAN Grade_a_medium Did you realize that Ibaka is shooting nearly 70% from the floor in his past 5 games? Given this fact, it is amazing how often OKC forgets about him. In game 3 however, they did not. Ibaka settled in at his favorite left elbow spot and sank jumper after jumper, and he did it in rhythm and without hesitation. That shot is going to continue to be there, because the Clips are acutely aware that if they let Blake Griffin wander too far away from the rim, Durant and Westbrook are going to have a field day in the lane.
Perk_medium

KENDRICK PERKINS GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
23 4 3 2 1 1 3 +2
JUAN Grade_bminus_medium
I've just been a really big fan of what Kendrick Perkins has done this series. His game three doesn't compare to what he did in game two, but the effort was there and that's all you can ask for out of big Perkins.
SHERMAN Grade_b_medium
Kendrick Perkins is tasked with keeping the Clipper bigs off of the offensive glass and Jordan away from the rim. Even though his game didn't pop the way it did in game 2, he is still getting the job done. What I would like to see however is a bit more awareness of whenever Jordan gets the ball inside. If there isn't a foul being given right away, they're missing an opportunity, as Jordan is actually one of the worst FT shooters in the league.

Jackson_medium

REGGIE JACKSON GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
31 14 1 1 0 0 2 +10
JUAN Grade_a_medium
During the first 2 games, we have gotten the bad Reggie Jackson, but on Friday we got the good Reggie Jackson. He only got 14 points, but they all came off him being aggressive and he was decisive and in control, which is the most important thing with Reggie. He played good defense and he even ran the offense late in the fourth quarter. I was really pleased with the aggressiveness Jackson brought last night.
SHERMAN Grade_aminus_medium
I'm docking Jackson just a hair because he got into foul trouble in the 1st half at the same time he was finally finding his offensive rhythm. Having an engaged Jackson on the court really puts the Clippers in a position for which they have no answers. L.A. is already in enough trouble having to figure out what to do with Westbrook, as neither Chris Paul nor Darren Collison can guard him, but if you stick Jackson out there as well it's a near guarantee that one of them is going to be able to get the ball to the rim. I also loved the faith OKC put in Jackson in the closing seconds of the game, putting the ball in his hands 60 feet away from the rim and under 10 seconds to work, and trusted him to make a play to keep building the lead. Jackson responded with a vicious slam dunk attempt that barely missed, but the subsequent FT's put the game out of reach.

Adams_medium

STEVEN ADAMS GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
18 4 9 0 2 0 0 +1
JUAN Grade_b_medium
Here's the thing with Steven Adams: he's not good enough (yet) to keep up with Blake Griffin, but he's giving so much effort that you can't help but applaud him even when Griffin makes a basket. The good thing, however, is that in 18 minutes, he still led the Thunder in rebounds.
SHERMAN Grade_bminus_medium So here's what we knew already - you cannot JUDO CHOP players in the NBA. I'm pretty sure Steven Adams knew that too, but Adams is nothing if not a devil may care kind of player, so he got his money's worth on CP3. He got burned more than a few times by Griffin, but never stopped battling and grabbed 9 boards in the process. I'm not sure what is more amazing - that OKC is not getting hurt by playing a rookie in key minutes in the playoffs, or that Brooks is actually trusting a rookie not to screw up.
Collison_medium

NICK COLLISON GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
10 2 4 2 1 0 0 +5
JUAN Grade_bminus_medium
It was a good, solid game by Nick Collison, which is usually a great sign to OKC's success.
SHERMAN Grade_b_medium I guess this is the role we're seeing for Collison now. He's not going to get heavy minutes unless there is foul trouble somewhere on the front line, but when he's in, he's still making things happen. Witness the 4 boards and 2 assists in 10 minutes on  the court for that.

Butler_medium

CARON BUTLER GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
23 14 2 0 0 0 1 +8
JUAN Grade_bplus_medium
It was a bit of a shaky start for Caron Butler, but he came through when the team needed him most. He nailed two HUGE three-pointers in the fourth quarter to give the Thunder a 6-point lead at one point. I haven't been the biggest Butler supported, but he came through last night.
SHERMAN Grade_aminus_medium
Caron Butler was brought onto the team for his INTANGIBLES(!) but also his 3-point shooting. He's essentially a jump shooter at this point and OKC needs him to be able to stretch the defense with his corner 3's. I loved the fact that, despite him struggling through 3 quarters, the Thunder went to him 3 times in the 4th, and in each of those 3 times Butler buried a huge corner 3-pointer that gave the Thunder the lead.

Fisher_medium

DEREK FISHER GRADE MIN PTS REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Game Stats)
11 0 1 1 0 0 1 +4
JUAN Grade_c_medium
I never know if Derek Fisher had a good game or not anymore because he does so little, but his +/- was a +4, so I'm guessing he did good? I don't know anymore.
SHERMAN Grade_cplus_medium
Derek Fisher's magical run this season seems to have just about run out, as he's likely eying the end of one career (and quite possibly the beginning of a second one). We haven't seen him shoot the 3-point shot with regularity or accuracy during these playoffs. I still believe he's got 1-2 big moments left though. Did I just say I 'believe' in D-Fish?!?

Brooks_medium

SCOTT BROOKS Coaching Grade
JUAN Grade_a_medium
I think the players deserve a lot of the credit because of their execution, but Scott Brooks deserves a lot of credit, too. I think the Thunder were unprepared for the speed and athleticism of the Clippers in game one, but they've looked like a completely different team these last two ballgames and that probably has to do with minor adjustments Brooks and the staff have made. He's put guys like Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson in situations to succeed and he played Durant most of the game last night because he could sense this game to be a steal-able one. I think Brooks has done a nice job adjusting this team to a great Clippers team with virtually no time to prepare.
SHERMAN Grade_a_medium Most of Scott Brooks' improvements take place in a location that we never see - the practice court and the film room. He rapidly corrected the defensive flaws in his team while helping them to figure out how to slow down the game and make better decisions. In game 3 however he displayed some high risk-high reward decision-making, as he elected to stay small down the stretch. In the final 8 minutes of the game, there was no Perkins, no Adams, and no Collison on the court, yet the Thunder held the Clippers to only 22 points and 38.5% shooting in the 4th. With only Durant and Ibaka protecting the paint, OKC still outrebounded the Clippers and held them to only 3 ORB's at a time when they absolutely had to keep up with the Thunder offense. Big risk, big reward.

Thunder_medium

TEAM GRADE GRADE FG% 3P% AST REB BL ST TO
(Advanced Stats)
55.7 35.3 26 44 6 1 14
JUAN Grade_aplus_medium
The defense still needs improvement, yes, but the Thunder got the stops when they needed them last night and came out with a huge road win to regain home-court advantage. Durant and Westbrook have been great the last two games, but it seems like the role players are starting to step up, and different one's at that. Game two it was Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha that game them a huge boost, but last night it was Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka and I think that's important throughout a championship run. I'm just getting really excited about this team's chances at hoisting up the Larry O'Brien. (yes, I know, it's still early.)
SHERMAN Grade_a_medium In the past 2 games, the Thunder offense looks completely at ease with whatever they are trying to do. While you can never predict when shooting will go bad or a key player will get into foul trouble, for the time being Westbrook and Durant are dictating every matchup and the Clippers don't seem to have an answer yet. On top of that, they also don't have a bulldog defender in the mold of Tony Allen or Kawhi Leonard to do anything about it. The defense did slip a bit, but that was also in part because Griffin had a monster game. If they can just keep him off the FT line a bit more and challenge him to be a jump shooter, they should be able to get back to their game 2 level defense.

*All player images via US Presswire

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