B team: A. The Thunder bench was exceptional, including the five-plus minutes in the second quarter when no starter was on the court. The Thunder reserves cut a 33-24 Nugget lead to 47-40. In the fourth quarter, Scotty Brooks declined to go with a straight B-team lineup; Kevin Durant played with Eric Maynor, Nazr Mohammed, Nick Collison and James Harden. That fivesome maintained the Thunder's four-point lead in 3 1/2 minutes.
Officiating: D. The foul calls were fine, both ways. But the refs missed the offensive goaltending on Kendrick Perkins' tip, which instead became the basket that gave the Thunder the lead for good, 102-101. Perkins had his hand in the cylinder and in the net. You can't miss that call.
Revelry: A. The blue-out — blue T-shirts for every patron — created a great scene. R&B singer Rob Clay provided a rousing national anthem. Mom and pop Durant even joined the “MVP” chant with 7.7 seconds left in the game. And just in case you didn't know this was a big game, NBA superfan James Goldstein, in his customary black leather, sat courtside.
First quarter defense: D. The Thunder played like its pre-Perkins days. Very soft inside. The Nuggets made their first seven shots and 15 of their first 21. Denver had 31 points in less than 10 minutes. That has to change.
Fourth quarter defense: A. The Nuggets scored just 21 points in the final period, making just seven of 17 shots. In the final 3:05, Denver had five straight empty possessions, until foul shots with 6.2 seconds left and the Thunder up five.
Serge Ibaka: C. Serge Ibaka's first playoff start did not go well. He had just three points (1-of-8 shooting) and five rebounds in almost 25 minutes. But Ibaka blocked four shots, all in the first half, which gave the Thunder energy when little else was working.
Pre-gamesmanship: B. While Brooks played it straight in pregame, Nugget coach George Karl was his usual comedic self. When asked if Danilo Gallinari could become a star, Karl noticed that Gallinari was walking past the media group. “Hey, Gollo, can you be a star in this series like Melo (Carmelo Anthony)?” Karl asked. Responded the Italian Gallinari, “I don't speak English.” When Perkins walked past, Karl said, “There goes the guy who causes me so many problems. Hey, Perk, I love ya.” Perkins just smiled. Or was it a sneer?
Ball security: B. The Thunder committed just four second-half turnovers (11 total), which Brooks termed “critical.” But the latter could have been a killer; Russell Westbrook threw a pass straight to the Nuggets' Nene with 1:41 left and Denver leading 101-100.