In four games against the Mavericks, we got a little taste of everything we’d seen over 66 games from the Thunder. Kevin Durant was amazing/incredible/outstanding/terrific. Russell Westbrook piped up and carried the team on his back at times. James Harden exploded as the best player on the floor for a while. Serge Ibaka was dominant on both ends. Kendrick Perkins showcased his toughness and defensive grit.
All in all, it amounted to a sweep that was as difficult as a sweep can be. The Thunder made some breaks, were gifted others by the grace of a friendly rim and outplayed the defending champs to advance on. After the disappointing finish to the season where OKC dropped seven straight games to playoff bound opponents, it was a lovely bounce back effort to show that maybe they were playing a bit coy down the stretch. Some confidence has been restored and the team is playing with that look in their eye again. The only question is Perk’s health, which luckily, he’s got some time to recover.
Also, who the Thunder play next.
Anyway, let’s rank the roster in that opening round:
1. Kevin Durant – 26.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 45.5 FG%, 34.6 3P%
Here’s the thing about KD’s opening round series: He didn’t play well in the opening two games, but still scored a total of 51 points, had two fantastic assists in Game 1 and of course hit the game-winner. Then he played a vintage Durantula type of game with 31 points on 15 shots, and in the closeout Game 4, his two fourth quarter 3s and baseline two-handed dunk were as important to the comeback as anything.
He started the series 15-44, and finished it 20-33. He made shots when it mattered, came up with big rebounds, hit big free throws and made big plays. He wasn’t perfect, but KD rose to the occasion in The Moment.
2. Russell Westbrook – 22.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.3 apg, 45.3 FG%, 30.8 3P%
Games 1 and 2, Westbrook carried the team. Game 3, after Durant’s monster first half, Westbrook was the one who turned the screw by exploding in the third quarter. He wasn’t really needed as much in Game 4, but don’t overlook the defense he played in the clincher, most notably picking up two big steals.
All series long Westbrook was terrific in denying Jason Terry. He played with defensive energy, effort and focus things that he’s lacked at times during his young career.
3. James Harden – 18.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 50 FG%, 46.2 3P%
Game 4’s fourth quarter is all you really need to remember, and rightfully so. Harden scored a playoff career-high 29, with 15 coming in the fourth quarter. He owned the ball, controlled the offense and ran the game. It was all Harden. Consider that: With two All-Star scoring superstars on the floor with him, Harden was so good that those two essentially just stood on the wing and got out of his way.
Harden was himself in Games 1 and 2 responding from that vicious elbow. His no-look fast break pass to KD in the fourth quarter of Game 1 was vital.
4. Serge Ibaka – 11.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.3 bpg, 64.5 FG%
Ibaka blocked a total of 13 shots in the four games against the Mavericks, which is three fewer than he swatted in the final two regular season games against Dallas. Despite not having overwhelming block totals, I think this might’ve been the best defensive performance of Ibaka’s career. Dirk scored and scored well, but it wasn’t without Ibaka hounding him.
Ibaka showed improved defensive discipline, staying down on pump fakes, rotating well, communicating in the pick-and-roll and hedging hard. He scored 22 points in Game 1, and 22 points total the final three. His scoring is always a luxury, and while he’s become an unheralded weapon offensively, he’s always been a defense first player and did that job well.
5. Derek Fisher – 8.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 58.3 FG%, 62.5 3P%
Stand and take a bow, Mr. Presti, you nailed it. The promise of Fisher was always in his postseason play and wouldn’t you know it, he lived up to that and more. His final three games, he went 14-21 from the floor, 5-8 from 3 and scored 33 points. He hit big shots and never was a noticeable defensive liability. Obviously it helped that he was defending Jason Kidd who is older than he is, but still. Fisher’s play was a revelation and something that was massive in helping OKC get done in four.
And while it’s hard to really quantify or know how much the supposed “locker room presence” stuff matters, there was a new mental toughness to this team. Both KD and Harden credited Fisher after the series, so maybe there was something to it.
6. Kendrick Perkins – 3.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 38.5 FG%
His hip injury is cause for major concern, especially with the Lakers appearing primed to advance potentially in five games. Perk defends Andrew Bynum better than anyone, so if OKC is down him, things could be a challenge. If Perk can play though, he will.
Against the Mavs, he was an anchor in the middle and defended Dirk physically. He didn’t have to do much outside of that as Brendan Haywood might be one of the five worst players in the league. Still, Perk rebounded, played hard and actually scored somewhat efficiently in Game 2.
7. Nick Collison – 2.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 42.9 FG%
In terms of production, Collison did less than normal. He scored a total of eight points and grabbed a total of eight rebounds. Still, as anyone knows that watched him defend Dirk and the interior, he was his typically solid self.
8. Thabo Sefolosha – 3.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 38.5 FG%, 50.0 3P%
Thabo didn’t have much value against the Mavs, a team light on scoring guards. But as we all know, he’ll make his money in the next matchup.
9. Daequan Cook – 3.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 29.4 FG%, 26.7 3P%
Cook didn’t shoot the ball all that exceptionally, but it didn’t feel like he slogged back into a slump or anything. His ability to stretch the floor and pile up points for the bench is going to be important at some point.
10. Nazr Mohammed – 2.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 50.0 FG%
He only played because of Perk’s injury, but I don’t think it was necessarily Scott Brooks simply shortening the rotation for the playoffs. It was an obvious matchup issue. Dallas only had one true center in Haywood, who is terrible. So with that, there wasn’t much need for Mohammed to find time. He played an average 11 minutes in Game 4 in place of Perk, but going forward, he’s going to get some big minutes against the Lakers and if Perk’s health doesn’t improve, he’ll be your starting center. Try not to throw up.
11. Cole Aldrich
12. Royal Ivey
13. Lazar Hayward
These three played the last five minutes of Game 3 and nobody scored.
Inactives: Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson