Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns: Postgame Grades and Analysis for OKC

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIINovember 4, 2013

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns: Postgame Grades and Analysis for OKC

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    Russell Westbrook made his 2013-14 season debut Sunday as the Oklahoma City Thunder won their home opener against the Phoenix Suns 103-96 in an ugly affair.

    Oklahoma City couldn't get into a groove coming off a 100-81 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves (its worst loss since Feburary 2011 against the Orlando Magic). The Thunder didn't take their first lead of the game until the second quarter and trailed throughout, including at halftime 45-44.

    OKC shot just 42.7 percent from the field and couldn't throw the ball into the ocean from beyond the arc. The Thunder finished 2-of-18 from downtown (11.1 percent). Both threes were canned by Kevin Durant.

    Despite the poor shooting performance, OKC came up with enough offense late to pull out a much-needed win.

    The Thunder were the beneficiaries of some shoddy officiating and the Suns' own miscues. Phoenix committed 23 turnovers, many of which were unforced errors, to utilize a tennis term.

    Goran Dragic left the game in the third quarter after spraining his left ankle on a fast-break drive to the basket. Phoenix simply didn't have enough depth to maintain the lead after that.

    Westbrook looked like his usual explosive self in his return, but there was clearly a rust factor working against him. He attacked the basket with fervor but committed three turnovers in the first half.

    The star point guard did have a solid debut, however, finishing with 21 points (on 5-of-16 shooting), seven assists and four rebounds.

    Kevin Durant, as only he can, finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds after a quiet start.

    The following game grades will be determined based on offensive and defensive performance against the Suns.

Starting Point Guard: Russell Westbrook

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    Russell Westbrook looked very much like his usual self in his 2013-14 season debut. He attacked the paint early like a rabid mongoose attacking a cobra, and while the results weren't always ideal, his activity alone was a welcome sight for OKC.

    While Westbrook entered halftime with three turnovers, he added eight points, two rebounds and two assists. His relentless athleticism and activity allowed him to finish with 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds.

    He showed no ill effects from the knee surgeries he underwent during the offseason and should earn an "A" grade simply for coming back to play so much earlier than expected.

    Nevertheless, I'll grade Westbrook as I would for any other game.

    He performed well, but 5-of-16 shooting wasn't efficient. With that said, Westbrook attacked on nearly every possession and got to the free-throw line 14 times.

    It wasn't his best performance, but what more can be expected coming back from injury?


    Game Grade: A-


Starting Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha

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    This was certainly a game to forget for Thabo Sefolosha.

    The lanky guard was completely MIA for this matchup with the Phoenix Suns.

    He was scoreless at halftime on 0-of-4 shooting with just one rebound. He finished the game with two points, one rebound and one assist on 1-of-5 shooting.

    Also, the usually dependable defender got lit up by the tandem of Goran Dragic and Gerald Green. Although Sefolosha wasn't responsible for all the points they scored, Dragic and Green finished with 31 points combined.

    Sefolosha needed to step up after Jeremy Lamb picked up two quick fouls. Instead, he treated the Suns to a disappearing act.


    Game Grade: D

Starting Small Forward: Kevin Durant

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    P.J. Tucker did an admirable job trying to lock down Kevin Durant, but KD still had an extremely efficient night.

    Although he had just 13 points and five rebounds at halftime, he exploded in the fourth quarter and finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds.

    Durant had a hard time setting up teammates in this one, finishing with just one assist. But I'm picking nits with that analysis.

    KD took over at the end of the game and ensured that Thunder fans wouldn't be let down in the home opener.


    Game Grade: A

Starting Power Forward: Serge Ibaka

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    Serge Ibaka learned the hard way that you can't leave Channing Frye open on the perimeter.

    Frye leaked out to the three-point line on numerous occasions early in the game and made Ibaka pay for not sticking with him. The Phoenix Suns big man drained two three-pointers early and had 12 points at halftime, which was the main reason why Phoenix led OKC at that juncture.

    Ibaka's 2013-14 shooting woes continued as he finished with just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. If Westbrook didn't return to the court tonight, Ibaka probably would have been seen as the goat in a potential loss.

    The big man did grab 10 rebounds, but he didn't block a single shot, which was truly uncharacteristic for him.

    Frye threw Ibaka off his game early by spreading the floor with his outside shooting. Ibaka never looked comfortable on either end.


    Game Grade: C+


Starting Center: Kendrick Perkins

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    Kendrick Perkins continues to prove just how ineffective he is as an NBA starter.

    He played just nine minutes in the first half and recorded two fouls, one turnover and zero rebounds. Like Serge Ibaka, Perk left Channing Frye open on the perimeter when the Suns moved their big man to center.

    Perk played just 16 total minutes, finishing with three points and one rebound.


    Game Grade: D

Sixth Man: Jeremy Lamb

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    Jeremy Lamb entered the game midway through the first quarter and promptly picked up two personal fouls in less than a minute of action.

    The foul trouble didn't help the youngster in terms of logging big minutes, but he picked his spots and had an efficient night.

    Despite committing a bonehead foul on Dionte Christmas with the shot clock winding down, Lamb finished with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting.

    Overall, just another average night for the NBA sophomore.


    Game Grade: C


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    Although Reggie Jackson officially lost his starting job tonight in Russell Westbrook's return, he played very well off the bench for the Thunder.

    The young point guard recorded eight points, three assists, two rebounds and zero turnovers in the first half. That first-half box score rivaled his full game numbers against the Minnesota Timberwolves when he notched eight points, four assists, three rebounds and seven turnovers.

    Jackson played 28 minutes, scored 10 points (on 5-of-12 shooting), dished out five assists and grabbed four rebounds.

    Steven Adams got away with a few blatant fouls on the interior throughout this game, frustrating Markieff Morris in the process. To his credit, however, Adams displayed a great deal of toughness. He snatched four offensive rebounds in just nine minutes of action. It should be only a matter of time before he takes Kendrick Perkins' starting job.

    Derek Fisher and Nick Collison did prototypical veteran things, and Perry Jones managed to knock down a deep two-point shot late in the game.

    OKC's bench held their own against the Suns second unit and kept the Thunder competitive with small contributions.


    Game Grade: B