OKC Thunder annihilate Rockets in Russell Westbrook’s return: player grades

JANUARY 9: Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
JANUARY 9: Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images) /
3 of 4
OKC Thunder
JANUARY 9: Terrance Ferguson #23 of the OKC Thunder plays defense against the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images) /

TERRANCE FERGUSON. A+. . G/F. Oklahoma City Thunder

Tasked with guarding James Harden is difficult enough but Terrance Ferguson also had to deal with the whistle which the bearded man has learned how to master.

Regardless of a few ridiculous calls TFerg got the best of Harden and earns respect for that effort alone – forget the offense which was an added bonus. Ferguson put in the effort making cuts and ended up registering six points, one rebound, two assists and two very big blocks. He was just behind SGA and Gallo with a plus 23.

Considering the teams who’ve had the best results against the Rockets have needed to double-team him defensively how satisfying is it the Thunder can use single coverage on Harden and occasionally throw different looks at him so he doesn’t get too used to Ferguson and figure out a way to combat his defense.

A+. . PF. Oklahoma City Thunder. DANILO GALLINARI

Just prior to game time fans learned Danilo Gallinari would suit up and play. That was a pleasant surprise and Gallo didn’t fail to deliver. Early on it was the offense and grittiness of Gallo that allowed the Thunder to get the early lead.

As we tweeted out tonight on the TI twitter account — it sure would be nice if Sam Presti can figure out a way to keep Gallinari who continues to gain our respect for his full game contributions and varied tool box of assets.

On the night Gallinari registered a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. He added four assists and a steal and also had ZERO turnovers! Moreover, his efficiency was off the charts shooting 7 of 11 from the field, 3 of 6 from deep and 6 of 6 from the line.

His defense both in man on man and help was also significant as you could almost sense the Rockets bigs backing off and it led to missed bunnies and prevented easy put backs.

C. Oklahoma City Thunder. STEVEN ADAMS. A+.

If Westbrook hadn’t already known he learned first hand having to get around Steven Adams screens or facing him in the paint isn’t a fun proposition. The big man was his typically steady self as he delivered 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and a steal.

But it was his defense which was the star tonight as he completely outplayed counterpart Clint Capela and put fear into virtually every Rockets player not named Westbrook. A master class of how to set screens, protect the paint, position for rebounds or help on defense could be made from this game alone.

Big time effect on the hardwood that simply doesn’t show up in the box score alone!

Yes — I know I gave all the starters A+ grades tonight – but when you beat down a team who everyone constantly says is the ONLY squad who can potentially beat the behemoths in LA and do it on the night when the former franchise star is in the house it deserves recognition.