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Thunder weekly grades: Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams lead the recovery but bad losses to Mavericks and Trail Blazers linger

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The Thunder finished their week at 2-2 with an impressive win on Christmas Day. Why does it feel like they didn't accomplish what they needed? here are our player grades to break it down.

The Thunder got off to a dispiriting start to the week, losing a heartbreaking game to the Trail Blazers in overtime. They rallied with a huge win on Christmas Day and then completed a successful back-to-back. How did each player perform?

Game 1: Thunder collapse vs Trail Blazers, 115-111

Game 2: Thunder without Durant win on Christmas Day vs Spurs, 114-106

Game 3: Thunder smash Hornets, 98-75

Game 4: Thunder come up short in 4th vs Mavericks, fall 112-107

***

KEVIN DURANT Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 0 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
KYLE
grade_C
That mild ankle sprain is proving to be a bit more serious since Durant hasn't suited up since that night in Oakland. Also, the last game in Dallas proved that sometimes Russell needs help in clutch situations and his usual partner-in-crime was forced to just watch from the sidelines. Get well soon, KD.
SHERMAN
grade_C
Kevin Durant has now missed 6 games, and in the process the Thunder are no better than when he was last on the court, at least in the standings. Westbrook is getting a crash course in leadership in the mean time, but OKC could surely have used Durant's late game abilities vs Dallas and Portland.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 4 33.8 30.3 6.5 7.8 0.3 3.8 4.3 +28
KYLE
grade_Bplus
Russell Westbrook has a heavy load to carry as the leader of this KD-less Thunder team. Sometimes that can weigh down on him a bit too much, like we saw in the loss against Dallas where he shot 6 for 23 and came up short in crunch time due to some missed shots and costly turnovers. We also saw him make a couple of mistakes that left the door open for Portland to come back from a 10-point deficit and win a game that he scored 40 points in. However, for all the bad Russ, we also get to see plenty of the good Russ, specifically what he did against Charlotte and San Antonio. This week, Westbrook deserves some blame for the losses but also a ton of credit for the quality wins.
SHERMAN
grade_Bplus
Russell Westbrook is learning what it means to carry the kind of torch that Durant and LeBron James carry, and it is heavy. However, instead of saying there is this good Russ/bad Russ, why can't we simply say that this is about a young guy learning how to lead a team for the first time in his life? People are harping on the ending of the Dallas game, but I saw a lot that I liked from Westbrook in terms of executing a game plan early on, especially when they fell behind by double digits. For whatever reason, there is a disconnect when the 4th quarter arrives, and that is holding him back.

SERGE IBAKA Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 4 33.3 19.0 10.0 0.5 2.3 0.0 1.5 +23
KYLE
grade_A
Being the perpetual third-option with a fully healthy team, most people always expected Serge to step up when either Russ or KD was down with an injury and we finally saw some of that this week. His averages indicate a lot more involvement in the offensive end, even though the Thunder tend to forget that he can score in the 4th quarter. Ibaka topped off what was already a great week with an awesome performance against Dallas, scoring his 26 points on 11 of 14 shooting with 10 boards to go with it.
SHERMAN
grade_A
Serge Ibaka's hot shooting vs the Mavericks was great, but what we love to see is how he performed against the Spurs and Hornets. The Thunder are the rare team that can dominate a game from their defense and rebounding, and the more engaged Ibaka is in these two facets, the easier the offensive burden becomes.

ANDRE ROBERSON Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 4 23.0 3.5 4.0 1.5 0.8 0.3 0.3 +20
KYLE
grade_Bminus
Coming off of some really good games last week, Roberson was quietly pretty solid again this week. He was great against San Antonio and Charlotte, and even slowed down one of the quickest two-guards in Monta Ellis. His biggest glaring mistake came against Portland when he failed to make the switch off of a Wes Matthews screen to defend an eventually wide-open Damian Lillard, who hit the game-tying three in OKC's worst regular season loss in 2014 (and maybe ever).
SHERMAN
grade_B
In regards to the Portland debacle, I place more of the burden on Brooks and Ibaka than Andre Roberson, who tried to chase Lillard over the top of the screen instead of switching. I would be willing to bet that Andre will never make that same mistake again.
STEVEN ADAMS Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 4 26.2 9.8 10.3 1.0 1.8 0.5 1.0 +37
KYLE
grade_Aplus
Talking about the James Harden trade is a pretty tired discussion, but I just want to say how glad I am that it at least netted us this young man named Steven Adams. I mean, his game against San Antonio when he was tasked with defending one of the greatest big men of ALL TIME in Tim Duncan. Adams rose to the occasion and held Duncan to 46% shooting (6 of 13) and stuffed him twice. Not to mention the 16 points and 15 rebounds he contributed that game. That game on Christmas Day was surely a sign of things to come for a player who is still just 21 years old.
SHERMAN
grade_A
I know the comparison is premature, but watching Steven Adams grow nearly on a game-by-game basis reminds me a bit of when Yao Ming realized that he was better than nearly every other big man in the league and started acting that way. "Oh, you mean that it's ok to dunk on people even if they're the best power forward of all time? Well, I'll just do that then." Shot, bro.

REGGIE JACKSON Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 4 28.5 14.3 4.5 3.3 0.0 1.3 2.8 +1
KYLE
grade_Cplus
All I could do when I see Reggie Jackson's image next to this text is just let out a big sigh. His performance against Dallas was actually pretty great, including a clutch 3 to keep the Thunder afloat late in the 4th. However, that was all offset by some extremely selfish hero ball that also sealed the Thunder's fate that game, something that is becoming more common for Jackson in this contract year. Besides the Mavs game, Jackson shot the ball very poorly (38.2%) and also didn't eclipse 5 assists in any game this week.
SHERMAN
grade_Bminus
Reggie Jackson is following Westbrook's lead, and not the good one, beset summed up thus by NBA Oracle Zach Lowe: "OKC crunch time offense: Run one simple action, it produces nothing, holy crap we have no backup plan Russ or Reggie take a bad shot please."
JEREMY LAMB Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 2 10.4 3.0 2.0 2.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 +7
KYLE
grade_C
On the other end of the Harden trade remains the curious case of Jeremy Lamb. This week, Lamb really only saw significant minutes this week against Charlotte (a game that ended up being a blowout anyway). Scott Brooks is constantly pestered about playing Lamb, since most people (myself included) continue to wonder why he won't commit one way or the other with him. It can't help a player's confidence to be wondering the same thing and that translates onto his performance on the court.
SHERMAN
grade_C
Is it really fair to evaluate Lamb on a game that was a blowout? Probably not. Perhaps he is the guy who is most hurt by Durant's absence, because the two of them play at about the same 3/4 speed, rolling around the defense like a beach ball on the waves in the ocean instead of Westbrook's 5,000 horsepower waverunner trying to dip and dive through the break, killing all the fish in the way. (That might be the best/worst metaphor I've ever thought of)

KENDRICK PERKINS Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 4 16.6 3.3 5.5 0.8 0.3 0.0 1.5 +9
KYLE
grade_Cplus
Quiet week for Perk as he saw a lot of bench time as he hasn't played more than 17 minutes since the game against Portland. This is definitely due to how good Steven Adams has been lately more so than Perkins not being as effective. Limited minutes might be good for a truck like Perk with so much mileage, especially with 50 games to go in the season.
SHERMAN
grade_Cplus
Nothing too remarkable for Kendrick Perkins this week, although I would have liked to see him get some bragging rights over his old teammate from Boston. Most importantly, he's not hurting the team, and I like how Adams' minutes continues to rise, especially in 4th quarters.

NICK COLLISON Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 3 15.2 5.7 4.3 1.3 0.0 1.0 0.3 +8
KYLE
grade_B
I think Kevin Yeung was onto something about many of us possibly exaggerating the demise of Nick Collison. This week showed that he can still contribute off the bench in small amounts and his veteran presence is crucial with the ups and downs of a season like this.
SHERMAN
grade_C
Agreed with above - Yeung's analysis is both mind-blowing as well as obvious; Nick is being asked to do something he is not good at, instead of doing things that he does well. Let him do those 2-3 things he is competent at and if the occasional 3-ball drops, bully for him.

PERRY JONES III Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 4 26.1 7.5 2.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.8 -20
KYLE
grade_C
Perry found his way back into Brooks' rotation, but has struggled with consistency. He played well against Dallas and San Antonio, but was forgettable against Charlotte and detrimental against Portland where he posted a -22 for his +/- ratio. Do we see the same amount of minutes for him next week with KD possibly on the mend? I doubt it.
SHERMAN
grade_B
Perry Jones has started to wake up again. There was one sequence against the Mavericks where in transition Westbrook found him for a 3-pointer on the wing, and as Jones was about to pull up, he realized that there was nobody in between him and the basket. He quickly gathered himself and drove the ball into the lane and finished. It is this kind of court awareness and aggression that will allow Jones' natural talents to flourish.

ANTHONY MORROW Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 4 26.8 11.3 3.3 1.0 0.3 0.8 0.5 +21
KYLE
grade_B
It was a good week for the Thunder's resident sharpshooter who hit 9 of his 18 attempts from long range in the past four games. Morrow has filled his role extremely well this season and this week has been one of his better stretches during the season.
SHERMAN
grade_Bplus
Anthony Morrow is still not really that "long range sniper" that we envisioned in the likes of Ray Allen or Mike Miller, but he's not far off either. Like all shooters, he relies on others to create good shots for him, and those opportunities are sporadic. Props to him though for playing better defense than we had anticipated.

ISH SMITH Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 4 11.8 2.5 1.3 3.3 0.0 0.0 0.5 -12
KYLE
grade_Cminus
I suppose Brooks thought it was time to shake things up a bit and include Smith in the rotation these past four games. Ish played about as well as you would think (which wasn't very good) and didn't really accomplish anything worth noting this week.
SHERMAN
grade_Bminus
Ish Smith is receiving Jeremy Lamb's minutes. Is Lambo getting the message? If nothing else, just stay in front of your man on defense.

MITCH MCGARY Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 0 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
KYLE
grade_C
The former Wolverine is still waiting to heal up and get back in uniform during this rough rookie season.
SHERMAN
grade_C
I fear that if Mitch McGary gets hurt again this season, his rookie year will be lost. It may already be too late to contribute.

LANCE THOMAS Games Played MIN PPG REB AST BL ST TO +/-
(Average Stats) 2 2.8 1.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.0 -8
KYLE
grade_C
I remember when he dropped 14 in the opening game against Portland and I thought that maybe Lance Thomas wasn't so bad. But now I know why his stat line looks like this one from the past week. It's usually not a good thing when he sees time on the court for OKC.
SHERMAN
grade_C
If putting Lance Thomas into the game was designed to send a message, I'm not sure the team received that message.

Thunder_medium

TEAM GRADE Record OffRtg DefRtg AstRatio REB% TS% PACE +/-
(Advanced Stats) 2-2 107.6 99.9 15.6 54.8% 53.5% 98.48 5.5
KYLE
grade_Bminus
Another up and down week for the Thunder who could have had a really good week even without Durant. Great win against the Spurs on the road and a dominant win against Charlotte, but a terrible and insert-expletive-here loss to Portland and a bad loss to a very good Dallas team.  2-2 very easily could have been 3-1 and maybe even 4-0 if the Thunder didn't make closing out games look like rocket science at times. These losses that could (and in the Portland case should) have been victories hurt now, but there are still 50 games left to go and KD should be back soon. There's no need to freak out, but the Thunder need to get their act together when they reach full health again.
SHERMAN
grade_Bminus
There have been so may painful losses this season that I have lost count. All I know that is with the exception of the outstanding Spurs win, every game that has required the Thunder to execute in the 4th quarter, they have lost. Even with Durant, all that may improve is their margin for error; fundamentally though, ends of games have been poor.

SCOTT BROOKS Coaching Grade
KYLE
grade_Cplus
This was not a hallmark week for me as a fan of Scott Brooks. I didn't like Ish Smith being brought into the rotation. I didn't like the design of the play he drew up for the last 3 seconds and a chance to salvage victory against Portland. And I really didn't like how he set up the Thunder to fail against Dallas with those isolation plays late in the game. There's a lot of unfair criticism thrown Brooks way a lot of the time, but there was plenty of warranted knocks on him this week.
SHERMAN
grade_C
The Spurs win was great and the Hornets win was necessary, but the two losses to the Trail Blazers and Mavericks, in both cases coaching decisions factored in. Would Brooks consider benching Westbrook at the end of a game in order to preserve a win? He has done it before, but that was a long time ago.

*All player images via www.usatodaysportsimages.com