The second stage of the 2013 NBA playoffs is officially underway, as the Oklahoma City Thunder outlasted the Memphis Grizzlies by a score of 93-91 to win Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series.
The Grizzlies led for a majority of this game, controlling the pace via their interior dominance. When it came to the fourth quarter, however, it was a familiar face in Kevin Durant who stepped up to lead the Thunder to victory.
Is anyone surprised?
Both teams have positives to take away from this game, as neither played at their best. Both squads shot worse than 43.0 percent from the field and each relied heavily on their stars as their role players struggled to step up.
So, who were the stars and duds of this one?
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies: D+
This wasn't an easy game for Mike Conley, as his underrated abilities were marred by fourth-quarter gaffes that cost Memphis dearly. From missed layups to careless turnovers, we saw Conley melt down when he's usually at his best.
It's only Game 1, but Memphis will need Conley to turn things around—quickly.
Conley finished with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals on 5-of-15 shooting from the field. Fortunately, Conley only committed two turnovers throughout this competitive game.
Unfortunately, both of those turnovers came during the final 17 seconds of the game.
Conley drove the lane in the fourth quarter and failed to convert a layup, overshooting it and allowing it to go too hard off glass. Later, Conley entered the paint again and thus lost control of the ball.
It ended up in Kevin Durant's hands and eventually resulted in the jump shot that gave OKC a 91-90 lead.
Mere seconds later, Conley mishandled a pass, fell to the ground and slid out of bounds before he could call a timeout. While Thabo Sefolosha's defensive pressure is to credit, there's no way around the late-game struggles Conley endured.
Conley should be able to turn it around, but this was not his finest hour.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder: B-
Reggie Jackson was huge in Game 1, displaying poise and maturity that we had not yet seen from the young scoring guard. Instead of attempting to be Russell Westbrook's replacement, he simply played the game and let opportunities come to him.
That resulted in his making three consecutive field goals during the second quarter and converting a crafty reverse layup in the final minute of the third.
Jackson finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists on 4-of-8 shooting from the field. He made all four of his free throws, with none proving to be as important as his final two.
Jackson made two freebies with 2.9 seconds remaining to give OKC a 93-90 lead—that saved him from the terrible gaffe of fouling the three-point shooter with 1.6 remaining.
Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies: C
In a clash between two of the top defensive players in the NBA, offense was an afterthought. This comes one game removed from Tony Allen's 19-point, seven-rebound, six-assist and four-steal performance as Memphis clinched its series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Against OKC, he wasn't so successful.
Allen saw limited playing time, posting three points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. Fortunately, Allen did play solid defense whether on Sefolosha or rotating onto Kevin Durant and the rest of OKC's limited scoring options.
We all wanted to see Allen defend Russell Westbrook, but we'll settle for quality D in limited playing time during Game 1.
Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City Thunder: C+
Thabo Sefolosha was up to his usual tricks, playing tremendous defense and limiting his assignment offensively. Unfortunately, Sefolosha was unable to get his three-ball to fall on a day in which OKC's offense was inconsistent, to say the least.
While you can't knock a player for being unable to go outside of their comfort zone, all hands were needed on offense, and Sefolosha failed to lend his.
Sefolosha rarely found good looks, and when he did, the ball was deferred to Kevin Durant. Even when he did get a three off, Sefolosha failed to sink it and thus fed into the team's inability to complement their star scorers.
Fortunately, Sefolosha made up for his offensive woes by making a brilliant defensive play with 3.5 seconds remaining to give OKC possession with a one-point lead.
Tayshaun Prince, Memphis Grizzlies: C+
Tayshaun Prince may be the most significant trade-deadline acquisition of the 2012-13 NBA regular season. Not only has he provided high-quality defense, but Prince has even stepped up as a scorer.
Coming off of errant feeds, Prince drained two long jump shots during the time in which Memphis was in full control.
Prince must improve his defensive pressure on Kevin Durant during Game 2, but few have been able to slow him down in any situation. If he continues to shoot as well as he did during the first three quarters, however, he could be the difference in this series.
Prince finished the day with nine points, five rebounds and two assists on 4-of-10 shooting.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: A+
Kevin Durant struggled to get going early, but as all superstars do, he put it together when it mattered. From his leaner with 31 seconds remaining to his ability to anticipate a late Marc Gasol rotation to drop in a layup, Durant went on an offensive tear late.
It wasn't as pretty as we're used to seeing, but during a game in which no one but Durant and Kevin Martin got it going, this was more than OKC could ask for.
Durant finished with 35 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals. No points were more important than the two that came at the 11.1 second mark of the fourth quarter.
Durant stole the ball from Mike Conley, ran up the floor and netted a jump shot to give the Thunder a 91-90 lead.
This was yet another step in Durant's rapid development, as he's taken Russell Westbrook's absence as impetus to improve his all-around game. With a monstrous double-double, huge dimes and key defensive plays, Durant proved just how well-rounded he can be.
Durant even tipped an inbound pass with less than 10 seconds remaining to help secure the win—what more could you ask for?
Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies: A-
Zach Randolph had trouble with Serge Ibaka early, as the clash of powerful offense and elite defense resulted in a back-and-forth battle. Once Randolph saw a few shots fall, however, he took over and there was nothing the opposition could do.
Whether he was crashing the boards or attacking the rim, Z-Bo imposed his will.
Randolph finished the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double in five games. Even as Serge Ibaka got the best of him at times, Z-Bo pounded it inside and was one of the primary reasons Memphis held a lead for a majority of this game.
He's also the last person to blame for Memphis' inability to close out.
On top of playing well on offense, Randolph contested everything Ibaka threw up. This enabled Memphis to eliminate the player who was supposed to provide the third-highest scoring output on the Thunder's roster.
It was just another high-quality performance from Z-Bo.
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder: D+
Serge Ibaka played very well defensively, coming up with key blocks in opportune situations. That includes a late stuff at the rim which resulted in a transition score to help spark a fourth-quarter comeback for the Thunder.
Unfortunately, Ibaka was also 1-of-10 from the floor while his assignment went for 18 points and 10 rebounds—not a good performance.
Ibaka only managed to grab five rebounds and scored five points to go with it. This is the type of performance that OKC couldn't afford to receive on a day in which the Thunder were horrendous offensively.
Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin combined for 60 points on 21-of-40 shooting—the rest of the team went for 33 points on 12-of-40 shooting.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: A+
Marc Gasol doesn't post Shaquille O'Neal numbers at the center position, but there's a reason he's viewed as one of the best in the world. Even when he isn't scoring, Gasol is contributing in every other area of the game.
That was on full display Sunday against a rugged Kendrick Perkins.
Gasol finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and three steals. He spaced the floor with his ability to shoot, facilitated the offense and enabled Zach Randolph to work it inside with his ability to draw Perkins away from the lane.
Come the fourth quarter, Gasol was magnificent with the ball in his hands. He hit turnaround fadeaways and found his teammates in perfect position to either find the bottom of the net or draw fouls.
Defensively, it was more of the same.
Gasol was everywhere Kevin Durant went, as he forced him to go for fadeaways and floaters as opposed to his usual aggressive form of offense. When he was defending Perkins, however, Gasol was at his best.
Blocking two of Perk's shots, and picking both Durant and Kevin Martin's pockets displays how dominant Gasol was.
Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder: D
Kendrick Perkins drew a tough matchup with Marc Gasol, and he simply couldn't do anything to counter. Even as Perkins surprised us with his passing ability, he was a non-factor offensively and failed to slow Gasol down on defense.
It was a rough night for the former NBA champion.
Gasol exploited Perkins' lack of elite mobility, drawing him away from the basket and working out of the high post. Although Perkins did contest his field-goal attempts, the Memphis big man converted far too many looks.
When your job is to make defensive plays and you fail to do so, your grade will suffer.
On the offensive end, Perkins was unable to counter Gasol's production in any form or manner. He was swatted twice and converted just 1-of-6 from the field.
Perhaps no mistake was as costly as the mishandled inbound pass with less than one minute remaining.
Quincy Pondexter, Memphis Grizzlies: B
Quincy Pondexter has been effective for the Memphis Grizzlies, providing three-point marksmanship and quality athleticism along the perimeter. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, that was no different for the Memphis swingman.
Pondexter finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists on 4-of-8 shooting from the field. He also made 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, including a buzzer-beating double-clutch three at the end of the third quarter.
Pondexter even drew a foul with less than two seconds remaining and the Grizzlies down 93-90. This presented him with the opportunity to tie the game.
Pondexter missed the front end, however, and OKC held on to win.
Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder: A+
As Kevin Durant struggled to piece together consistent offense early on, Kevin Martin took it upon himself to provide the scoring punch. Throughout the duration of the game, the latter trend didn't falter, as Martin remained on his game.
By finishing with 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, Martin effectively kept his team within striking distance.
Believe it or not, Martin's best play came on the defensive end of the floor. With less than four minutes remaining and the game tied up, Martin blocked Quincy Pondexter's jump shot.
Moments later, he won the jump ball against Pondexter to control possession.
Martin's offensive output was extraordinary, but it was that defensive play that opened the door for OKC. If not for his scoring punch, however, there wouldn't have been any door to open.
Martin was absolutely magnificent.
Memphis Grizzlies: B-
The Memphis Grizzlies' second unit may not have made history statistically, but they did everything in their power to secure a victory. From Quincy Pondexter's buzzer-beating three at the end of the third quarter to Jerryd Bayless' offensive efficiency, they did it all.
On a night in which offense came in spurts but without consistency, Bayless was a provider of instant offense coming off of the bench. From his three-point shooting to his ability to penetrate the lane, Bayless was the key to Memphis' offensive outburst in the second quarter.
With 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, Bayless certainly made an impact.
Unfortunately, that was just about all Memphis' reserves did from an offensive perspective. Fortunately, they played quality defense and provided a good spark.
It's certainly not their fault that Kevin Durant is on the Thunder.
Oklahoma City Thunder: C+
Derek Fisher was huge for the Oklahoma City Thunder, stepping up in countless late-game situations to make the smart play. With eight points on two three-balls and a steal, the numbers speak to his efficiency in 24 minutes.
Perhaps no play was as important as Fisher's pass leading to a foul on Serge Ibaka.
Fisher pump-faked the defense, drew two men into the air, drove baseline and found Ibaka at the basket. Although the power forward failed to convert, it was a big enough play to shift momentum in OKC's favor.
Unfortunately, the rest of OKC's bench failed to show up with D-Fish.