The Thunder led only once, 17-16, and trailed by double digits most of the second half. The grades reflect such a frustrating night.
Rotations: C. Scotty Brooks bolted on the big lineup sooner than he did in Game 4, which was good. But Brooks stuck with Kevin Martin far too long; Martin was 1-of-10 shooting (he made his last one, in the fourth quarter) and was a liability on defense. And Brooks didn't play Nick Collison at all in the second half, even though Collison was solid in 61/2 first-half minutes, with six points on 3-of-3 shooting, plus two blocked shots.
Hack a Turk: C. After Serge Ibaka's dunk brought the Thunder within 93-85 with 5:38, on six straight Rocket possessions, Brooks ordered intentional fouls on center Omer Asik. Asik missed three of his first six but made five of his next six. The strategy failed for other reasons. The fouls sent a clear message that Brooks didn't trust his defense. Maybe for good reason. But it also gave Houston a chance to rest. The Rockets appeared gassed, and they hadn't played particularly well in the final five minutes of the three previous games.
Kevin Durant: B. Durant was sensational through three quarters – 36 points, 11-of-18 shooting, five assists. But Durant was scoreless in the fourth quarter, missing all five of his shots and failing to get to the foul line. By quarter's end, he showed some frustration. Durant has to keep his mind right, else the Thunder is sunk.
Beverley reception: C. The crowd heavily booed Beverley during pregame introductions, plus every time he touched the ball. Nothing really new, but it seemed to be effective early. Beverley had just two first-half points, on 1-of-3 shooting, and even drew a technical foul when he threw an elbow when Reggie Jackson tried to steal the ball while Beverley was calling a timeout. But Beverley was good in the second half. He finished with 14 points and got the last laugh – some of the boisterous crowd headed for the exits with three minutes left in the game.
Big lineup defense: D. The Rockets torched the Thunder's big lineup. Scotty Brooks played big the first 7:32 of the first quarter and the first 1:48 of the second quarter. During that 9:20 of action, the Rockets scored 30 points on 17 possessions and made 11 of 16 shots. The Thunder's big lineup actually was decent offensively; it scored 21 points on 17 possessions, which is acceptable.
Westbrook reception: B. Maybe the loudest ovation of the night came when Russell Westbrook was shown sitting in the arena's suite level during the game's first timeout. Westbrook smiled wide and waved to the crowd. But befitting this frustrating night, when play resumed, the Rockets reeled off eight straight points, wiping out the Thunder's only lead of the night and taking a 24-17 lead.
Reggie Jackson: A. Jackson kept the Thunder alive in the fourth quarter. He scored 11 points in the final 61/2 minutes, including seven straight for OKC that made it a 98-92 with 4:15 left. Jackson finished with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
Foul shooting: C. The Thunder made 20 of 28 foul shots but was just 10 of 15 in the second half. The last three times the Thunder went to the foul line – Kevin Durant once, Derek Fisher twice – it made just one of two. That's no way to rally.
Three-point game: D. The Thunder did not find the Rockets' shooters in transition. The Rockets made 13 of their first 28 3-pointers; James Harden made his first seven and finished 7-of-9, with his last miss a halfcourt heave that shouldn't really count. Meanwhile, the Thunder missed 14 of their first 15 3-pointers and finished 8-of-33. Kevin Durant was 1-of-8; Martin was 0-of-5. The Thunder can't win with that kind of discrepancy.