The Thunder was great in the first half and great late. But a horrid third quarter made this a ballgame, and the grades reflect that.
DEPTH: A. The Thunder bench helped wear down the Grizzlies. Memphis made that great third-quarter run, but it came at a cost. The Grizzlies didn’t substitute the first 14 minutes of the second half, and then only when Zach Randolph got his fifth foul. A few minutes later, the Grizzlies looked gassed. Meanwhile, Caron Butler, Reggie Jackson, Nick Collison and Derek Fisher were key contributors for OKC. None were spectacular – Jackson and Butler each had just nine points – but all helped the cause. The Thunder outscored Memphis by 18 with Butler on the court, by 15 with Fisher.
SERGE IBAKA: A. Serge Ibaka was largely forgotten on offense during the Thunder’s first-half spree. He had just two shots and four points at halftime. But Ibaka had three blocked shots and seven rebounds, and his offense joined that defense and rebounding in the second half. Ibaka finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. He also had the game’s biggest basket, a three-point play from a dunk off a Durant pass, after Memphis had drawn within 74-72 with 8:46 left in the game.
BEAR WRESTLING: B. The Thunder big men made life miserable on Randolph and Marc Gasol, who combined to make just 14 of 40 shots. Scotty Brooks used a variety of defenders on each. Kendrick Perkins was effective early on Randolph but played just 16:22. Collison came on and played tough and much (19:08). Steven Adams played 9 1/2 minutes and had three blocked shots. Ibaka played tough on both Memphis big men. Even Hasheem Thabeet played 3:16 and was fine. The only down side? Randolph totaled eight offensive rebounds. That’s way too many.
PREGAME CEREMONIES: A. Susan Winchester, chairwoman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, delivered the invocation and merely asked for a moment of silence on the 19th anniversary of the Murrah Building bombing. Winchester’s sister died in the 1995 bombing. Then Justin Young delivered a stirring national anthem with a fabulous soprano sax solo.
FIRST HALF START: A. The notoriously slow-starting Thunder zipped out of the gate lack a jet-fuel dragster, scoring on seven of its first eight possessions and stifling the Memphis offense. The lead was 8-0 after 21/2 minutes and 14-2 after 4:05.
SECOND HALF START: F. The Grizzlies made 12 baskets on 48 shots in the first half. They had 31 points until James Johnson’s desperation 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer. Then Memphis scored 31 points in the third quarter alone. The Grizzlies scored on eight of their first nine possessions and 15 of 21 in the quarter. And the Thunder’s offense was no better than its defense. OKC scored just 13 third-quarter points, including only four in the first 5 1/2 minutes after halftime.
FAN INGENUITY: A. The T-shirt fad is back on, with blue shirts awaiting on every seat Saturday night. Most fans take part, but sometimes, even an extra-large shirt can be a little uncomfortable, depending on what you’re wearing and how big you are. The Thunder has some bigger sizes available for swap at its customer relations desk, but one female fan took matter into her own hands. She brought a pair of scissors and cut out the sleeves to make a shirt a little looser.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: C. Russell Westbrook was great early, dominating counterpart Mike Conley. At halftime, Westbrook had 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists. But Westbrook was shaky in the third quarter. He missed all five of his shots, some of them ill-timed, and committed two turnovers. The offense never got in synch. The Thunder settled the game in the fourth quarter with Westbrook on the bench, though he returned with 6:37 left and OKC up 83-73.