Handing out the grades following the Thunder's 121-112 loss at Dallas in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals:
Serge Ibaka defense: B. I know, sounds crazy, a grade this high for a guy assigned to Dirk Nowitzki on his 48-point night. But look at this way. Nowitzki missed just three shots. All three when guarded by Ibaka, who generally played solid D. Nowitzki had few wide open shots.
Memphis adjustment: D. After a fistfight against the physical Grizzlies, the Thunder-Mavs series began with a ton of foul calls, both ways. The Boomers were so confused, after the game Kevin Durant said the Thunder played too physical, but Thabo Sefolosha said it didn't play physical enough.
Kevin Durant: A. Led the Thunder in rebounding (eight), assists (five), blocked shots (two) and scoring (40 points, on 10-of-18 shooting). Missed leading in steals only because Sefolosha nabbed two to Durant's one.
Scotty Brooks rotations: B. Brooks tried about all he could to slow Nowitzki, considering foul trouble and Nowitzki's lack of cooperation in missing a shot. Brooks wisely scrapped his usual B team insertion to start the fourth quarter, staying with the effective Ibaka.
Nate Robinson experiment: F. Brooks' use of Robinson for 5:41 in the fourth quarter smacked of panic. J.J. Barea repeatedly drove past Robinson for easy baskets, and Robinson missed badly on all three of his shots. Can we finally end this three-month speculation that Robinson could be some kind of spark?
Perimeter shooting: B. Thunder made seven of 14 3-pointers, not counting the two misses by Robinson. That bested the vaunted Mavs' 9-of-23.
Defending non-Dirks: C. Mavs not named Nowitzki made 27 of 58 shots, 46.5 percent. The Thunder must do better, or the Mavs will stay over 50 percent.
Resiliency: A. The Thunder looked in serious trouble early but quickly rallied to stabilize the game. Then when the game seemed over, Dallas up 99-83 with nine minutes left, the Thunder rallied again, twice cutting the lead to five and got within 116-110 with 48 seconds left.
By Berry Tramel