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2013 NBA Playoffs: Thunder vs Rockets Final Series Grades

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Round 1 between the Thunder and Rockets is in the books. How did each player perform?

Scott Halleran

The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Houston Rockets in round 1 of the 2013 playoffs, 4-2. While this series may go down the memory hole, we should remember it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is we finally got a close look at how valuable Russell Westbrook is to everything the Thunder are trying to accomplish. With Westbrook lost for the playoffs, it is difficult to say how much farther OKC can go. At least for this series, they kept their composure in the end.

Individual Game Grades

Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4, Game 5, Game 6


(all statistics are the series averages)


33.6 PPG, 7.8 REB, 6.0 AST, 1.2 ST, 1.0 BL, 3.0 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_a_medium
I'm giving Durant an A because he can't control his playing time. There's two performances of his that sorely stick out as really poor. For one, there's the terrible job he did in the third quarter of Game 3, letting the Rockets nearly come back with lots of turnovers and missed shots. But he hadn't sat a single minute and had to play point guard, so it's forgiven. For two, there's the 0-5 shooting performance in the fourth quarter of Game 5. But he hadn't sat in the entire second half, so that's forgiven too. The only thing that I can really blame him for is his generally high turnover rate, mainly because he gambled on offense a lot and ignored some obvious passes. Otherwise, he was KD. The solid offensive rock of our offense that led us to victory many-a-time. By the way, never forget the high-bounce.
Sherman Grade_aminus_medium
Kevin Durant got his first shot at being the focal point of the entire Thunder team in this series, and Durant learned plenty of lessons on how stressful that can be. While Durant did well for himself, scoring at a high clip on efficient shooting, he struggled mightily when the Rockets started to aggressively trap him high outside the 3-point line. Durant was looking for teammates to get open, cut to the basket, and hit open shots, but for much of the time there were precious few outlets regardless of how hard Durant tried. Consider this though in Durant's evolution - he averaged 6 assist over the course of the series, which was a better number than anyone wearing a red jersey.


24.0 PPG, 6.8 REB, 7.0 AST, 3.0 ST, 4.0 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_bplus_medium
He participated in two excellently handled games. As usual, his turnover rate was high, and his shooting percentage wasn't the greatest. Plus, his performance in Game 2, especially from three, nearly cost the Thunder a victory. But this dude gets it done when it matters, and I think this series did a great job of highlighting not only what he brings offensively, but what he brings defensively. He's great and providing intimidating pressure, and forcing the other team into turnovers. Sure, sometimes he forgets his assignment, but he more than makes up for it with his commitment to pushing the break and hustle. We'll miss you, Russ. And bravo for taking the long route on your injury. There's no use in sacrificing your long-term health for short-term results.
Sherman Grade_a_medium This series was a referendum on how valuable Russell Westbrook truly is for the Thunder on the court, at both ends of the court, in the locker room, and even in the interview room. What probably surprised most people though was how valuable Westbrook is in helping set the defensive tone. Despite the fact that Russ sometimes plays too aggressively and gambles too much, his assertiveness to engage the defense goes a long way to setting the type of tone that puts the opponent off-balance. Houston looked far too comfortable in their offense through most of the series, and Westbrook's absence was a big reason why.


13.4 PPG, 3.2 REB, 2.6 AST, 0.4 ST, 0.6 BL, 2.0 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_aminus_medium
The only thing that keeps Reggie Jackson from an A is his defensive failures against Aaron Brooks and his insistence on shooting the corner three. Otherwise, aside from Game 3, Reggie Jackson has been an unbelievable asset. He hasn't quite filled Russell Westbrook's shoes, but he's consistently provided the Thunder with a penetration threat and a scorer that can create his own shot. As long as he continues to be a rock of offense and distribution, the Thunder still have a shot at the finals.
Sherman Grade_bplus_medium
Reggie Jackson was thrust into the spotlight in these playoffs, and what can we say, the kid has really grown. A year ago, he had to step up when Eric Maynor went down, and at that point in time RJ was not quite ready for the pressure. This time out, he acquitted himself well. The best way I can describe it is that Jackson never looked overwhelmed with the moment, something he could not boast a year ago. He played solid most of the time, good some of the time, but never badly and not detrimental to his team. I'd like to see him shoot fewer 3's, but for this series, he knew what he had to do and did not shy away from the moment.


13.6 PPG, 8.6 REB, 1.2 AST, 3.2 BL, 0.6 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_cplus_medium
I really wish I could give him a better grade, but Serge Ibaka really struggled in this series. By normal offensive standards, he did a good job. But I really think he could have contributed more. His jumpshot really started to hit the tank at the end of the series, as he worked more towards the rim and struggled to get open in the mid-range, even against Omer Asik. Defensively, I think the story is even worse. The Thunder struggled to defend the rim and stop Asik on the pick and roll, and Serge Ibaka was part of the problem in both areas. He certainly wasn't a disaster on the level of Kendrick Perkins, but he frequently saw himself on the wrong side of screens or baited into a mismatch. Still, he id do a solid job of rebounding, providing hustle, and getting some easy points. So credit has to go where credit's due.
Sherman Grade_bminus_medium
Serge Ibaka had a 1st round that is difficult to characterize. His numbers are solid, he wasn't awful in any one game, but for some reason it seems like he didn't do well. I think the reason is because he should have dominated the Rockets' front line, but even after Westbrook went down Ibaka still maintained his standard performance averages. Matched up against Harden most of the time, Ibaka should have had little trouble getting to the rim, yet he looked off-balance most of the time. Even his reliable jumper was off. That said, Ibaka helped protect the rim well and Houston eventually ran out of gas.


7.4 PPG, 6.0 REB, 3.0 AST, 1.4 ST, 0.8 BL, 0.8 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_cplus_medium
James Harden was contained for the majority of the series, and I applaud Thabo for that. But I think with Russell Westbrook out, he needed to take a bit larger of an offensive role. I know that he's not the perfect player to fill the role, but he needs to do something beyond standing on the perimeter. We saw that he has the ability to isolate and drive the ball while he played with Fenerbahce Ulker in Turkey. All I'm saying is that I wish the guy would just drive and kick a bit, or try a few mid-range jumpers. Because it gets frustrating watch him miss corner threes. Still, as always, his defense was on point. Horrible performances from James Harden in 5 of the 6 games is absolutely nothing to sneeze at.
Sherman Grade_b_medium
Thabo Sefolosha was tasked with 2 basic things: 1) play good defense on James Harden; and 2) knock down open 3's. Thabo did #1 reasonably well - Harden shot only 41% from the floor and needed nearly 19 shots to generate 26 points on offense. While his shooting was off, Thabo continued to show growth in his understanding of the offensive game. While it might have seemed at times that Harden was having his way with Thabo, the evidence suggests otherwise. He broke Harden's percentages, and that was enough to help topple Houston.


2.4 PPG, 4.0 REB, 0.6 AST, 1.2 ST, 0.4 BL, 2.2 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_c_medium
There's a lot of Perk haters out there, and by the end of the series, I felt like I had joined the crowd. But I'm still adamant in saying that he could have been a factor in this series. He was excellent in Game 1, and had a solid third quarter stretch in Game 2. When he actually defended the rim and boxed out, he was able to help the Thunder dominate the boards and stifle the Rockets with excellent defense. But by the end of the series, he had lost his mojo. He was going out to defend screens, switching assignments way too readily, rebounding poorly, and handling the ball way too much on offense. He had forgotten his role, and so had Scott Brooks. His benching at the end of the series was a darned shame, because if he had played the right way, this series could have easily been over in 4.
Sherman Grade_d_medium
Kendrick Perkins did not belong on the court in this series, and by the time Game 6 rolled around everyone, including the coach, knew it. Perk will be needed against the Grizzlies, but for now, let's just forget his play vs the Rockets ever happened.


11.4 PPG, 2.6 REB, 1.4 AST, 1.0 ST, 0.2 BL, 1.2 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_d_medium
Until Game 6, this guy was ice cold. I know that his 1 of 10 performance might be clouding my mind, but his shooting numbers simply weren't impressive up until the last game. He was missing threes left and right, gambling on bad jumpers, and, as usual, providing next to nothing on other ends of the floor. I know it sucks to judge a guy based solely on shooting numbers, but with Kevin Martin, it's what you gotta do. And he could have made life a lot easier, had he shot a better percentage. Still, props to him for helping pull the Thunder out of the dungeon in Game 6.
Sherman Grade_c_medium
Kevin Martin had a largely forgettable series, right up until Game 6. Game 5 is the one that is going to stick out the most, because in that one Harden was having a field day while K-Mart struggled to a 1-10 shooting night. Throw out that game though and Martin was solid if not spectacular. He produced enough points in games 1-4 to make the bench productive, and in Game 6, was chiefly responsible for the Thunder's big run in the 2nd quarter. We still need to see more out of Martin though if OKC is going to have a shot in the 2nd round.


7.6 PPG, 1.0 REB, 0.6 AST, 0.4 ST, 0.2 Bl, 0.6 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_aplus_medium

Here's a quote from Tim Duncan, talking about Spurs teammate Robert Horry in 2005:

"I'll tell you the deal with Rob, Rob just hangs out the entire game. He does it all season long, he doesn't do anything. He doesn't feel like playing. He shows up sometimes, and then you put him in the fourth quarter in a big game, whether it be regular season or the playoffs, and he's like, 'Okay, it's time to play now. I've been hanging out the entire season, it's time to play now.' And he just turns it on."

Just replace "Rob" with "Derek". 'Nuff said.

Sherman Grade_a_medium What can I say? At least for one round of the playoffs, I could not have been more wrong about Derek Fisher. OKC's 3-point shooting is still a weak spot, but not because of Fish. he shot 10-18 from the arc (62%), did not turn the ball over much, and played solid defense against the Rockets guards. I don't know what will happen against Memphis, but against Houston, the Thunder would have had a tough time winning without Fisher and that's something I NEVER thought I would ever write.


5.4 PPG, 4.4 REB, 1.2 AST, 0.4 ST, 1.2 BL, 0.0 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_aminus_medium
I'm always at a loss when it comes to Nick Collison. Here, it's even harder to know where to start. Normally, he's totally unassuming, and I kinda ignore him unless he has a big game. In this series, he was really tough to ignore. He put in decent performances in Games 1 and 2, as the Thunder walked on sunshine. But in Game 3, he had an absolutely dreadful performance, because the Thunder asked him to do way too much ballhandling and shot creating. Game 4 saw his minutes decrease, and Game 5 saw them almost disappear altogether, despite him having a terrific performance in limited time. But Game 6 saw him go out with a bang. Why? Well, when the Thunder aren't relying on him to handle the ball, Nick Collison is great at awareness and positioning. Sure, he won't block every incoming drive or grab every tough rebound. But against a team like the Rockets, who love to surprise you with trick plays, positioning and awareness is key. And I think that's ultimately what redeemed Nick Collison in this series.
Sherman Grade_bplus_medium
The usage of Nick Collison vexes me. I am terribly vexed. When Collison played, the Thunder as a team offense looked so much better than when he was on the bench. To be sure, Collison struggled getting the ball in the hole early on. However, by Game 5, he was easily the best big man the Thunder had because he was still scoring the ball while not getting lost on defense like Ibaka was. Collison finally proved his worth with 10 points in Game 6. Hopefully, he won't be forgotten again.


1.6 PPG, 2.2 REB, 0.6 AST, 0.2 ST, 0.2 Bl, 0.2 TO

Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_b_medium
An excellent defender, and an excellent 9th man. He's a nice change of pace from Thabo Sefolosha, because I feel like he relies more on quickness and hustle, while Thabo relies on his size and gambles for steals. He's also an interesting player offensively. He has almost no ability to shoot, but he loves the baseline cut, and he can creep for points when we most need him. He's not perfect, but I love to watch him play.
Sherman Grade_b_medium
DeAndre Liggins is the new Thabo Sefolosha. Liggins was used primarily as a defensive specialist against James Harden, so we can group Liggins with Sefolosha and note that for the most part, the two did their job against Harden. While I'd still like to see some basic offensive competency out of Liggins, for now his defense, energy, and hustle are sufficient.


Grade Comments
Zorgon Grade_d_medium
Earlier in the series, I wrote an article called "Scott Brooks Has Failed". A little bit later, I wrote an article called, "Scott Brooks Has Failed, Again." If you can't tell, I'm not a big fan of what he did this series. There's a laundry list of things I didn't agree with, but I'll highlight a few. His horrible defensive strategy in Game 5, where he told the Thunder to stop pressuring an iso-heavy team. His refusal to play Collison and Ibaka together. His refusal to use Ronnie Brewer as a ballhandler. His horrible 47 minute Kevin Durant point guard experiment in Game 4. His unwillingness to control the boards, instead preferring to try to outscore the opposing team. But eh, it's all water under the bridge at this point. There's arguments to be made on a lot of sides. I just hope he knows that the Grizzlies like to dominate the paint.
Sherman Grade_cminus_medium
Scott Brooks got his first big taste of what it is like when he loses a star player for an extended period of time. Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Doc Rivers, they all know what it's like and they've learned to adapt. Brooks has not, but there is still time. Game 5 might have been one of Brooks' worst as a pro. Not only did he lose, but he resorted to the horrible hack-a-Asik strategy that turned the entire world against him. While Brooks' in-game awareness is still a weak spot, he does deserve credit for keeping OKC's heads in the game and not let them falter again in Game 6. His between-games adjustments are solid still, so let us hope his in-game skill catches up soon.