Russell Westbrook: A. The Thunder's perceived edge before the series started went full bloom; the Mavericks failed to keep Westbrook out of the lane. He had 31 points, five assists and eight rebounds. Westbrook missed some shots (he was 11 of 28), but attacking the Mavs is the only way this Thunder team could have won.
Rebounding: C. The Thunder outrebounded Dallas 49-44. But the Mavs had 17 offensive rebounds to the Thunder's 15, which is inexcusable in a game when Dallas center Tyson Chandler played just half the game due to foul trouble. Dallas outscored OKC 14-13 in second-chance, including two huge baskets by Dirk Nowitzki in the final 75 seconds.
Defending Dirk: A. Nowitzki was phenomenal again, with 26 points. But Nick Collison's defense helped make Nowitzki work for his points; 8-of-15 shooting. And while Nowitzki made nine foul shots, he was fouled only once by Collison, who played 37 1/2 minutes.
Defending Dirk 3-pointers: C. Nowitzki didn't take a 3-pointer until 1:21 remained. He missed. But in the scramble for the rebound, the ball landed back in Nowitzki's hands and he fired again. This time, he gave Dallas the lead for good, 95-94. It is not too much of a stretch to say that the Mavs are Western Conference champs because of Nowitzki 3-pointers -- this one and the Game 4 lifeline when Dallas trailed by 10 with 2:22 left.
Lineup adjustments: B. Scotty Brooks played point guards Westbrook and Eric Maynor together for the first time months. It was effective at times, but over the course of the game, Dallas outscored the Thunder 44-34 with both players on the court. The primary reason? Mav backup point guard J.J. Barea repeatedly blew past Maynor for easy layups or assists. Brooks should have shifted Westbrook over to guard Barea and have Maynor try his hand with DeShawn Stevenson or even Jason Kidd.
Kevin Durant early & late: A. Durant was superb in the first quarter, when he scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting and had four rebounds. He also had seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in the fourth quarter, including OKC's only two baskets in the final 41/2 minutes.
Kevin Durant middle: D. Durant in the two middle quarters made just one of eight shots, scored four points and seemed to be pressing. The Maverick defense continually pushed Durant away from the basket.
James Harden adjustments: D. Harden looked like an all-star through 31/2 quarters, with 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, plus six assists. He constantly attacked the basket. But in the last six minutes, the Maverick zone neutralized Harden; he failed to score or assist and didn't even take a shot until a desperation 3-pointer in the final five seconds.
Ball security: C. One game after committing 26 turnovers, the Thunder cut that total in half. Westbrook and Durant combined for 15 turnovers in Game 4; they each had three in Game 5. But the Thunder committed seven of its turnovers in the pivotal fourth quarter.
By Berry Tramel