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Serge Ibaka to start for Thunder in Game 3

May 25, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

ibaka-game-4

UPDATE: Serge Ibaka will play and start, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the game.

He also is starting Reggie Jackson at the two. That means Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison will come off the bench. That certainly brings more offense to the starting lineup, but we will see if that is enough against a Spurs team firing on all cylinders.

2:11 pm: The Oklahoma City Thunder will not make it official until as close to game time as they can get because… well that’s what Bill Belichick would do. And every hockey team (“he has a lower body injury”).

But after he went through shootaround with his team Sunday, you should bet on Serge Ibaka playing in Game 3 against the San Antonio Spurs.

Here is what Ibaka said, which you don’t have to read very deeply into to see he will suit up, as reported by Jeff Caplan at NBA.com.

“I remember when the doctor told me I would not be able to play in the playoffs, I cried,” Ibaka said. “Because it’s something I was not really looking for. I always enjoy playing with my teammates, I always enjoy playing basketball. When the doctor told me you are out for the playoffs, it was hard for me. So right now to be able to be back and have an opportunity to play tonight, it feels great, it feels great.”

The real question is will it matter?

No doubt with Ibaka protecting the rim — even 70 or 80 percent of Ibaka is more intimidating in the lane than the other Thunder bigs — it will be more difficult for the Spurs (they had 120 points in the paint the first two games combined). No doubt if Ibaka is knocking down 18-foot baseline jumpers and getting a few putbacks it will help the Thunder offense, it will take some pressure off Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

But it’s too late for these Thunder now — this is not 2012, these Spurs are not going to be swept the next four games. For one thing, no James Harden for OKC. More importantly, this is a better and more athletic Spurs team with Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter playing key roles.

Maybe with Ibaka the Thunder can trade wins with the Spurs, but that’s not enough already down 2-0 in the series.

Still, with him back this series certainly just got a lot more interesting to watch.

  1. cantonb0und13 - May 25, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Yeah, Durant is the real “MVP” … I didn’t realize Ibaka was THAT important to the Thunder. Which means Ibaka, Westbrook and Jackson >>> Durant

    • antistratfordian - May 25, 2014 at 7:03 PM

      They got the MVP wrong this year. I think most people realize that by now.

  2. cantonb0und13 - May 25, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    What makes Durant better than Dirk Nowitzki?

    • cantonb0und13 - May 25, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      Nowitzki doesn’t have Westbrook. Durant been surrounded with bunch of talent since his rookie season, yet everyone fears saying anything negative to Durant. LeBron was the most hype player in all professional sports, and manage to exceed expectations.

      • ProBasketballPundit - May 25, 2014 at 5:23 PM

        Dirk has Rick Carlisle’s brilliant mind. Durant has a coach running the Clogged Toilet offense and frequently rolling out lineups with Perkins & Collison on the floor while Durant & Westbrook are both on the bench. How do you not have one of those two always on the court?

      • 1forest1 - May 25, 2014 at 11:12 PM

        If LeBron hadn’t joined the Heat who knows if he would have exceeded expectations. People constantly said he would choke and quit. There were tons of jokes about him, but i guess two rings can shut them up

  3. zoomy123 - May 25, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    “Tiago Splitter” and “athletic” should never be in the same sentence together.

  4. jzone954 - May 25, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    They’ll need all the help they can get. So far OKC back court of the MVP and Westbrook hasn’t been what I expected them to be. You have to be dynamic on both sides of the ball. Something Lebron and Wade are spectacular at. I hope OKC can overcome this.

  5. timcast12 - May 25, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    It’s funny how @Canton hates so much lol just cause your team is bad. It’s okay though kid

    • cantonb0und13 - May 25, 2014 at 3:06 PM

      This is the different canton. The one that speaks the truth.

  6. whitwarren - May 25, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    I don’t know why you keep saying “this isn’t 2012″. We know it isn’t. It’s 2014, and the 2013-2014 season we swept the Spurs in our season series 4-0. And at least one of those games was without Westbrook.

  7. ProBasketballPundit - May 25, 2014 at 5:25 PM

    I hope this is not akin to David Lee’s early “comeback” in the playoffs last year.

  8. campcouch - May 25, 2014 at 8:20 PM

    down 0-2 will heal you quick.

  9. whitwarren - May 25, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    No, we don’t have James Harden anymore. But frankly, I don’t think we need him for this series. He doesn’t play defense, which is what we need. Ibaka plays defense and also provides some solid scoring. I think these last 3 games have proved that keeping Ibaka and letting James go was a good decision (or at least not a bad one).

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