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Serge Ibaka’s back, Thunder are home and look like different team, roll Spurs in Game 3 win

May 25, 2014, 11:34 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Three Getty Images

It turns out, getting one of your best players back really does help.

It was more than just getting Serge Ibaka back in the lineup, although that mattered. A lot. It was also being home where clearly the Thunder role players were more comfortable. It was a couple days off to gather themselves. It was some lineup changes by Scott Brooks that changed the dynamic on the court and gave the Thunder scoring.

Brooks inserted the suddenly healthy Ibaka plus Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup and got what he wanted — the spacing, ball movement and just plane good shooting was back in the Thunder offense. OKC was the team attacking again, rather than settling. Ibaka was 6-of-7 Parker for 15 points with seven rebounds and four blocked shots. With Ibaka in the paint Tony Parker and the Spurs were more hesitant inside the Thunder defense was aggressive and athletic and all that threw the Spurs well-oiled machine off — the Spurs shot just 50 percent in the restricted area.

Oklahoma City won Game 3 106-97 to cut the Spurs lead in the series to 2-1.

The real questions are can Ibaka come back and play like this in Game 4 Tuesday in OKC (he was clearly limping at points late in Game 3)? Will the Thunder defense follow with him again be a force? And how will the Spurs respond?

If the Thunder win Game 4 we have a series, if the Spurs do this series could end in five.

The key in Game 4 for Oklahoma City will be Tony Parker, who was 4-of-13 shooting for 9 points and he was just 1-of-6 inside 8 feet. A more aggressive Russell Westbrook guarding him and the presence of Ibaka made Parker hesitate in the paint, and he is the catalyst for all things San Antonio on offense.

Ibaka was the catalyst for the Thunder, from the opening tip the Thunder were moving the ball and attacking in transition off Spurs misses.

The Thunder put up 28 first quarter points on 12-of-19 shooting, Ibaka was 4-of-4, and the tempo was up. It was everything the Spurs have wanted offensively. Problem was, the Spurs scored 29.

That is how the first half went. Tony Parker started the game 1-of-6 shooting with three turnovers, in fact the Spurs got sloppy with the ball and the Thunder turned that into a 13-2 run. Kevin Durant had 13 in the first half, Westbrook 12 and Ibaka 10, the Thunder shot 56 percent as a team in the first half.

Yet at the half it was a four point Thunder lead, 57-53.

Credit Manu Ginobili for a lot of that, he was 5-of-7 from three and had 20 points. San Antonio hit 7-of-15 from three in the first half to stay in it. Well, that plus the 12 Thunder turnovers helped.

In the third quarter the Thunder were on a parade to the free throw line — 22 times to the Spurs zero in the quarter. In the NBA foul calls usually go to the aggressor and that stat tells you all you need to know about how that quarter looked. At the end of the third it was a seven point OKC lead, you could see which way the game was tilted but the Thunder just could not pull away.

Then the Thunder opened up fourth on 7-0 run as Boris Diaw, who had been reliable from three the first two games of this series, missed a couple and at the other end the Thunder were making plays with Reggie Jackson driving the lane and Caron Butler hitting a corner three.

From there the rout was on. By 5 minutes left in the game Gregg Popovich pulled his starters and made it garbage time.

Westbrook had 26 points and Kevin Durant 25 (both were 8-of-19 shooting) but it was the 15 a piece from Ibaka and Jackson that were the key.

Ginobili finished with 23 points, Tim Duncan had 16 points on 17 shots, Kawhi Leonard had 10 on 11 shots. As a team the Spurs shot 39.6 percent on the night.

The Thunder’s defense, when they are healthy, has given the Spurs trouble for a couple years now. If the Spurs don’t figure it out by Game 4 this is going to be a best-of-three.

  1. cantonb0und13 - May 25, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    Like I said Ibaka is the real MVP for the Thunder. And great move by Scott Brooks for putting Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup. Also, continue to use Jeremy Lamb over Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha is a solid player but been struggling this series. With that being said, I had the Spurs’ winning in five, so I have no idea why I said all of that. It’s probably because I just want to watch a good series.

  2. sensiblevoice - May 26, 2014 at 12:19 AM

    this article is so full of editing errors, William Randolph Hearst turned over in his grave.

  3. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 26, 2014 at 12:51 AM

    “The key in Game 4 for Oklahoma City will be Tony Parker, who was 4-of-13 shooting for 9 points and he was just 1-of-6 inside 8 feet. A more aggressive Russell Westbrook guarding him AND THE PRESENCE OF IBAKA MADE PARKER HESITATE in the paint, and he is the catalyst for all things San Antonio on offense.”

    In order to outscore the Spurs you have to disrupt their plays first.

    Guess who is the culprit? Who put that monkey wrench into the gears of the Spurs Machine?

    OKC made the better choice of keeping Ibaka over Harden.

    • syrinx35 - May 26, 2014 at 2:47 AM

      Spurs in five.

  4. 4thqtrsaint - May 26, 2014 at 12:54 AM

    How about an extra comma or two? I had to re-read some of this.

  5. ebrownwareagle - May 26, 2014 at 1:04 AM

    SPURS N 5.

  6. trickybastard - May 26, 2014 at 1:36 AM

    Future NBA painkiller lawsuit in the making

  7. antistratfordian - May 26, 2014 at 2:59 AM

    Are you sure it’s not 2012 again? Just sayin’… it’s the Spurs… you can’t say they’ve won a series until they’ve actually won it.

    • thundercocck - May 26, 2014 at 3:18 AM

      The biggest Spurs hater, antistratfordian, strikes again.

      • jimeejohnson - May 26, 2014 at 3:41 AM


      • antistratfordian - May 26, 2014 at 3:44 AM

        I don’t hate the Spurs. I’m just stating a reality about the Spurs of recent vintage. If I don’t, who will? Everyone else is lost in this fantasy that Pop and the Spurs have been infallible – but that simply isn’t true.

    • thundercocck - May 26, 2014 at 5:56 PM

      The only person calling Pop and the Spurs infallible is you. There is nothing wrong with praising consistency.

      • antistratfordian - May 26, 2014 at 7:30 PM

        The Spurs of recent vintage have been consistently mercurial in the playoffs – that’s the point. These Spurs are as likely to lose in the first round as any “consistent” team that I can remember.

  8. elcaminobilly - May 26, 2014 at 3:59 AM

    I missed the game due to a scheduling conflict, this article does a good job in describing what I missed, although there are a couple of sentences that I don’t think printed as intended.

  9. realfootballfan - May 26, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    Are we sure it’s not 2012 again?

  10. newyorkball82 - May 26, 2014 at 7:07 AM

    Any heat fan is scared of the spurs.

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - May 26, 2014 at 7:55 AM


      • savvybynature - May 26, 2014 at 11:00 AM

        They split this season.

      • 6thsense10 - May 26, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        Did the Spurs and Heat split this season? Because the Nets beat the Heat every game this regular season yet look hopeless against them in the playoffs.

  11. newyorkball82 - May 26, 2014 at 7:07 AM

    Any heat fan is scared of the spurs.

  12. rodyaugu - May 26, 2014 at 7:44 AM

    Patty Mills was ready to throw in the towel for OKC, but his teammates wasn’t playing at his level.

  13. markv00 - May 27, 2014 at 3:44 AM

    Spurs Fan here. As I posted before, I was expecting OKC to get one emotional win with Ibaka. He did his thing and his teammates stepped up. But at what cost? Will the every other day do more harm long term? Every team has good and bad games and sometimes those meet on the same night. When the Spurs blowout a team, Pop says “we’re not that good and they’re not that bad”. It works the other way as well. OKC may be into the Spurs head a little, but it takes alot to rattle the Spurs. Mentally they’re fine, but if the ball doesn’t go in or just plain solid play by OKC on both ends spells trouble for any team. The Spurs were way off as a team but I gotta give alot of credit to OKC for being competitive and taking care of their home. Any true basketball fan has to appreciate when a team is playing at high levels. Of course I want my Spurs to win this series, but they can’t play like that when OKC steps up.

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