Not a pretty game. In truth, an ugly game from the Thunder perspective, until an amazing rally from 13 points down in the final four minutes. And the grades reflect such an amazing game.
Resiliency: A. Rip his in-game strategy if you will, but give Scotty Brooks credit for this. His players never give up. Down 13 with four minutes left, the Thunder staged a rally for the ages. And didn’t even score every trip, missing two scoring opportunities. The Clippers’ only points in the final four minutes came on a solitary possession, a foul shot by Blake Griffin, followed by a Glen Davis rebound off Griffin’s missed foul shot and a jumper by Chris Paul that gave the Clips a 104-97 lead with 49 seconds left.
Star combo: C. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were huge at the end. But for the longest time, the Thunder didn’t prosper with them on the court together. Meanwhile, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were dominant together. By game’s end, the Clippers had outscored OKC 88-82 with Griffin and Paul playing together, and the Clips outscored OKC 88-83 with Durant and Westbrook on the court together.
Russell Westbrook: A. Westbrook’s offense stagnated midway through the fourth quarter, but until then, he had been fabulous. His assists totals were not high, because Durant was making no shots, but Westbrook was his usual fearless self. He finished with 38 points on 11-of-23 shooting, six assists and five rebounds. And the never-say-die Westbrook made the game’s biggest play, a steal of Chris Paul with 14 seconds left that gave the Thunder a chance to go ahead. Which they did on Westbrook’s three foul shots with 6.4 seconds left.
Mid-range game: D. The Thunder was decent from 3-point range (seven of 17) and outscored the Clippers 44-22 in the paint. But the Thunder’s usually reliable mid-range game was atrocious. Serge Ibaka made just one shot away from the basket. Russell Westbrook’s pullup jumpers were rare. And Kevin Durant was 0-of-11 on shots longer than three and shorter than 3-pointers.
Defensive pressure: A. After a massive turnover discrepancy in the series’ first four games, the Thunder finally put some pressure on the Clippers. The Thunder committed 12 turnovers, but just three in the second half. Meanwhile, the Clippers committed 17 turnovers, including two in the final 14 seconds, both by the usually reliable Paul.
Officiating: B. Too many fouls called. Way too many. The Clippers were called for 10 in the first quarter and had 18 by halftime. The Thunder had 13 at halftime. The Thunder 25 foul shots in the first half. But the whistles subsided in the second half. And cut the referees some slack. This series has been physical and confrontational. Too much complaining. Crew chief Tony Brothers said as much when he blew the whistle and issued a second-quarter warning. “That’s it,” Brothers said.
Handling foul trouble: B. Both teams were saddled with foul trouble. OKC’s Ibaka and Nick Collison each had two fouls in the first quarter. So did LA’s DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul, and teammate Big Baby Davis had three. Ibaka and Jordan both played less than 6 1/2 minutes in the first half. Jordan eventually fouled out in just 19:44, while Davis was limited to 18:11. But the Thunder milked 30:14 out of Ibaka, and the Clips got 40:25 out of Paul.
Defending Griffin: C. The hometown boy dominated the first quarter, with 11 points and five rebounds. He kept Ibaka in foul trouble. But the Thunder did a better job on Griffin the last three periods. Griffin did most of his damage – 24 points, 17 rebounds – from the perimeter, which the Thunder will take. Collison, Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams all took turns in Ibaka’s wake of trying to slow Griffin.