Quite a game, the Thunder's 93-91 victory over Memphis. Not always pretty but always fiercely played, and the grades reflect it.
Defensive rebounding: A. The Grizzlies missed 47 shots and four reboundable foul shots. Of those 51, the Thunder rebounded 41. That's an excellent percentage against the likes of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Kevin Durant (15) and Kevin Martin (seven) combined for more defensive rebounds than Gasol and Randolph (10 each). The Grizzlies had just four second-chance points.
Bear wrestling: B. Gasol and Randolph combined 38 points on 15 of 30 shooting. The Thunder can do better. But the Thunder also can do worse. Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka made the Memphis big men work for everything they got. Gasol made five of his eight baskets from at least 14 feet out. Memphis' final turnover, with 3.5 seconds left, was set up by man-sized defense. Perkins bodied up on Gasol, who was trying to feed Randolph underneath but was denied by Ibaka.
Starts to halves: C. This is becoming routine. The Thunder trailed 7-0 after almost four minutes to open the game, then the Grizzlies opened the second half with a 15-6 run that gave Memphis a 61-53 lead five minutes into the third quarter. Going back to the Houston series, that's eight straight miserable starts coming out of the locker room for either the first or third quarters.
Crowd: B. When Quincy Pondexter went to the line for three foul shots with 1.6 seconds left, Chesapeake Arena might have been as loud as it's ever been. However, the crowd gets a minus for its chanting of “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” when Reggie Jackson went to the line up one point with 2.9 seconds left. The Thunder point guard seems to be a cool customer, but he's still rarely been in such a pressurized situation. Don't ice your own player by chanting his name. It's not like he's Durant or Kobe Bryant and hear “MVP! MVP!” all the time. Durant himself had to ask the crowd to quiet down.
Scotty Brooks rotations: A. The Thunder coach sometimes is billed as more of a motivator than a tactician, but Brooks punched all the right buttons in Game 1. His substitution patterns were on spot. Bringing on Thabo Sefolosha when Brooks sensed that Mike Conley was getting to the basket too easily. Knowing when to use Collison or Ibaka on Randolph. Going with a small lineup to change the tone of the game. The only quibble: Perkins' late turnover on an inbounds pass was unnecessary. With 1:08 left in the game, Collison or Ibaka should have been in the game for offense. You can substitute virtually every possession at that point in the game.
Sans Durant: B. Durant played 43:42 — he sat for just the first 4:18 of the second quarter. And it went OK. The Thunder held serve, 9-9, with Durant on the bench, thanks to Kevin Martin's seven points. But it didn't start out so well. The Thunder went scoreless its first three possessions, and Memphis got a 3-point play from Randolph and a 20-foot shot from Pondexter.
Small ball: A. The Grizzlies didn't seem like a team on which the Thunder could try out its small lineup. But with Memphis up 70-58 with 1:57 left in the third quarter, Brooks resorted to a lineup of Collison, Durant, Fisher, Jackson and Martin. And it changed the game. The Thunder stayed small until the 7:01 mark of the fourth quarter and had cut the Memphis lead to 82-77. Memphis coach Lionel Hollins inserted Gasol earlier in the fourth quarter, but for Randolph. Finally, at 5:45, Hollins went with both his big men, and Brooks responded by going big again. But Hollins later said he regretted going big. Good to see the Thunder force the issue.