Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIINovember 29, 2012

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Postgame Grades and Analysis

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    In James Harden's first game back in Oklahoma City, his Houston Rockets fell to Kevin Durant and the Thunder by a score of 120-98. Durant finished with 37 points and seven rebounds, while Harden finished 3-of-16 from the floor.

    Not the ideal return to his former city.

    Although the Thunder emerged victorious by a 22-point margin, there is more to the story than a mere final score. Each team had their breakout performers, while they also had their underwhelming players who could have done more.

    So, how'd it all go down?

Point Guard

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    Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: B

    In a matchup between point guards known more for their scoring than their passing, we saw a memorable battle between facilitators. WIth eight points, one assist and two turnovers than his counterpart, Russell Westbrook secures the slight edge over Jeremy Lin.

    For the game, Westbrook finished with 14 points, nine assists, five rebounds, three steals and one block. Although his five turnovers were of concern, that is what you can expect from Westbrook.

    When his shots aren't falling, Westbrook can take over a game with his facilitating.

    Considering the Thunder scored 120 points, it's fair to assume that Westbrook did his job to perfection. He created perimeter and interior scoring opportunities for teammates, worked his way into openings when attempting to score, and created a flowing offense in which all teammates were involved.

    This is exactly what is expected of a point guard. Which is exactly what Westbrook is proving to be.


    Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets: B

    Some fans will look at the box score and see that Jeremy Lin continues to struggle scoring the basketball. The fact of the matter is, Lin has worked to become more of a pass-first player that looks to involve his teammates.

    Against the Thunder, it was a job well done.

    Lin finished the game with six points, eight assists, three rebounds and four steals. These are the type of numbers that one should learn to expect from the former Linsanity star, as he has become one of the top passers and ball hawks in the league.

    Season averages of 6.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game, prior to the contest, prove such.

    A quality performance by the Rockets point guard, which will be a sign of things to come. Lin is legitimate.

Shooting Guard

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    James Harden, Houston Rockets: D+

    The Houston Rockets have grown far too familiar with the way that James Harden disappears for extended periods of time. In fact, this was the seventh time in 15 games that Harden has shot less than 40 percent from the floor.

    After missing 13 of his first 14 shots, Harden set his team up for defeat and himself for concern over his ability to lead the team.

    For the game, Harden would finish with 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting from the floor. He'd score seven points during the fourth quarter to slightly save his grade, but his all-around failure has placed his letter at a high of D+.

    Even 9-of-11 shooting from the charity stripe can't protect Harden here.

    In a game in which emotions were at a high and the tension was undeniable, Harden deserves more attention for his verbal spar with Hasheem Thabeet than he does his play. Matched against Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha, Harden proved to be inferior by a wide margin.

    To repeat a previously stated fact, this was the seventh time in 15 games that Harden has shot less than 40 percent from the floor. Not what you want to see from your star player.

    Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City Thunder: B

    Did anyone expect Thabo Sefolosha to outperform Harden on both ends of the floor? Quite unlikely, but that's exactly what transpired.

    Sefolosha finished with nine points on 3-of-6 shooting with seven rebounds and one steal. Combining with teammates to hold Harden to 3-of-16 shooting from the floor certainly doesn't damage his grade, either.

    Quite the impressive performance by the shooting guard who remains in Oklahoma City.

    Although his stat sheet will rarely blow opponents away, Sefolosha continued his responsible style of play. He made one three-pointer and committed only one turnover, which neutralizes his four personal fouls.

    Sefolosha's physical defense and solid shooting was a major reason the Thunder pulled out this victory.

Small Forward

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    Daequan Cook, Houston Rockets: B-

    Daequan Cook was one of many perimeter players who switched off between shooting guard and small forward. Although his defensive performance was subpar, Cook stepped up as a scorer from all over the floor.

    For the game, Cook finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block.

    For the game, he finished 7-of-17 from the floor and 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. Although an elevated level of defense would have improved the team's chances of achieving victory, Cook made up for James Harden's shortcomings.

    That is, if you consider scoring relatively well during a 22-point loss making up for shortcomings.

    Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: A+

    Whether it was James Harden, Daequan Cook or Marcus Morris, there was no slowing down Kevin Durant. A phrase that is becoming rather common, is it not?

    For the game, Durant finished with 37 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one block. He shot 13-of-22 from the floor, 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.

    In other words, Durant proved why he is the three-time defending scoring champion.

    What was most impressive about Durant's performance against the Rockets was how he worked his way to the interior. Durant would finish with 12 points in the paint, which proves how powerful Durant's work ethic truly is.

    Each and every time out, it appears as if we're witnessing the evolution of Kevin Durant's game. Quite a pleasure to watch and admire.

Power Forward

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    Patrick Patterson, Houston Rockets: A

    In what was easily the most competitive individual battle of the evening, Patrick Patterson led the Houston Rockets with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He hit two three-pointers on three attempts, grabbed six rebounds, dished out two assists and swiped one steal.

    In other words, Patterson was the only reason the Rockets didn't lose by 40.

    Although he struggled defensively, playing a role in allowing Serge Ibaka to score at just as impressive a rate, Patterson continues to develop into a mid-range threat. His jump shot was as smooth as ever, while his monster dunk gaffe provided an example of how well he worked into the paint.

    Quite the impressive performance by the forgotten member of the 2010 Kentucky draft class.

    Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder: A+

    What can you say about Serge Ibaka?

    On a night in which his matchup went off for 27 points, Ibaka countered by putting up 23 on 11-of-13 shooting. Paired with his nine rebounds, six blocked shots and one three-pointer, Ibaka flirted with a perfect grade.

    Grabbing five offensive rebounds and failing to commit a single turnover puts him there.

    Ibaka's offensive game has developed as rapidly as any other player in the NBA. Thirteen of his points came on jump shots from at least 15 feet out, which places on full display how far this young man has come.

    A masterful performance by Ibaka, even as his opponent countered him with a big night of his own.


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    Omer Asik, Houston Rockets: B

    Omer Asik continues to establish himself as one of the top rebounders in the NBA. He posted 12 rebounds, including three on the offensive glass, and finished with an efficient 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor.

    Unfortunately, going 1-of-7 from the charity stripe is the perfect way to knock your grade down.

    Asik may not be the most fundamentally sound player in the league, but he continues to out-hustle his opponents. He works on the interior as well as any, gaining position for rebounds and fighting for loose balls.

    This was especially evident against the Thunder, as he worked on every possession and played as if the scoreboard was irrelevant. Asik is the type of player that everyone can learn from, as his effort and passion are undeniable.

    As soon as his fundamentals gain way, Asik will begin to garner the respect he deserves.

    Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder: C-

    In a battle of interior enforcers, Kendrick Perkins was "out-Perk'd." Time and time again.

    Perkins has always been the type of player whose contributions range beyond a stat sheet. He's the type of player who influences the outcome of a game based off his ability to disrupt slashers and interior scorers, utilizing his brute force to alter shots.

    Unfortunately, Perkins was consistently out-muscled on the interior against Asik. The Turkish big man rebounded at will and presented the Rockets with opportunities that the perimeter players failed to convert. A fortunate truth for Perkins, considering he did very little to positively influence the outcome.

Sixth Man

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    Marcus Morris, Houston Rockets: C

    Marcus Morris' offensive production may have lacked luster, but there's a reason he continues to see more minutes than any other reserve. That is mainly due to the fact that Morris is a solid ball-handler, stout defender and above-average jump shooter.

    With that being said, a solid seven points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal are respectable enough.

    Morris will continue to develop into the star his talent suggests he can be. Every time out, it appears as if Morris is making new strides toward maximizing his potential.

    Matched up against Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, however, one can only expect Morris to struggle.

    Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder: B

    James Harden wasn't the only shooting guard matched up against his former team, folks. Kevin Martin was just as interested in exacting some revenge.

    The difference is, he succeeded.

    Martin finished the game with 17 points, three assists, one rebound and a steal on 6-of-14 shooting from the floor. Although his defense continues to be of a concern, Martin posted a plus-minus of plus-21.

    Good for second on the roster and a sign of how well Martin complements this team.


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    Houston Rockets: C

    Can we really penalize or praise the Houston Rockets' second unit? With Toney Douglas the only player outside of sixth man Marcus Morris to play at least 10 minutes, there is not.

    With that being said, it was a treat to see Scott Machado, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas in action.

    Oklahoma City Thunder: C+

    Nick Collison continues to be one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He finished the night with eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and one steal in 19 minutes of play.

    Yet another example of his well-rounded contributions to the OKC franchise.

    Along with Collison was Eric Maynor, who finished with two steals in 13 minutes. Although the remainder of the Thunder's second unit was rather pedestrian, Jeremy Lamb did provide two three-pointers in six minutes of play.

    A quality outing by OKC.