Another rousing game, another overtime, but another defeat for the Thunder. Entertaining doesn’t count for much this time of the season, and the grades reflect it.
Kevin Durant: C. Durant didn’t play bad. But he didn’t play well. Six turnovers, many because he wasn’t strong with the ball. Only two assists, on a night when his teammates were making some shots. Durant disappeared at times; he had seven points the first 6 1/2 minutes of the game and didn’t score the rest of the half. Tony Allen clearly has gotten in Durant’s head. Even Durant’s foul shooting is affected – he went to the line three times and made one of two on every trip, including with 27.5 seconds left in overtime and the Thunder down two.
Small ball: A. With 4:44 left in the third quarter, Scotty Brooks inserted Caron Butler for Kendrick Perkins to join a lineup of Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson. The Thunder trailed 68-52. The Memphis lead eventually reached 72-52. But the Thunder closed the quarter with an 18-4 run, and Brooks stayed with small ball until just four seconds remained in regulation. Memphis scored just 14 fourth-quarter points against that small lineup.
Defensive stoppers: D. Kendrick Perkins’ streak of outstanding defense on Zach Randolph ended. Z-Bo dented the Thunder for 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting and six rebounds in the first quarter alone; all but one of those baskets came with Perkins on the floor. The rest of the game, Randolph made just three of 10 shots to finish with 20 points, but Perkins played only 15:08 the rest of the way. That’s far more than Thabo Sefolosha played. Sefolosha played the first six minutes of the first quarter and the first 2:34 of the third quarter. Then Thabo played just seven seconds the rest of the game. With Sefolosha in the game, the Grizzlies scored 19 points and made eight of 14 shots. So shut-down defense was not being played.
Clipper protest: C. The Grizzlies wore their warmup shirts inside out. The Thunder played in all black socks and shoes. Union vice president Roger Mason said all six playoff teams in action Tuesday were prepared to boycott if commissioner Adam Silver didn’t drop the hammer on Clipper owner Donald Sterling, for racially insensitive comments in a taped conversation with his mistress. OK. But I wish the NBA community had shown more outrage when Sterling was refusing to rent his housing properties to blacks and Hispanics.
3-point shooting: B. The Thunder made 12 of 31 from long distance, an acceptable 38.7 percent. Caron Butler made four of eight, including a four-point play with 2:40 left in the game, when the Thunder trailed by five. Kevin Durant three of eight. Reggie Jackson two of three. The Thunder made its first five 3-pointers but missed its final five. And 31 3-pointers aren’t too many. The Grizzlies don’t let you shoot many good 2-pointers.
Quarter starts: D. Memphis opened the first quarter making five of its first six shots for a 10-2 lead. The Grizzlies opened the second quarter making their first four shots and scoring on eight of their first 11 possessions to take a 48-38 lead. Memphis opened the third quarter scoring on six of its first seven possessions for a 66-51 lead. Only in the fourth quarter did the Thunder start stingy on defense, getting six straight stops to complete a comeback from 20 points down. Even the start of overtime was shaky – Mike Miller nailed 3-pointers on Memphis’ first two possessions.
Guarding Miller: D. Memphis sharpshooter Mike Miller got loose far too often. Miller sank three 3-pointers in an eight-minute span of the second quarter, during which the Grizzlies expanded a 34-30 lead to 55-43. Then Miller hit the overtime treys. Miller is no threat to drive. But you can’t leave him open. The Thunder did, far too often.