Over a week after it was announced that power forward Serge Ibaka would be out for the postseason, he made a miraculous return. With his Oklahoma City Thunder squad down two games to none in their Western Conference Finals matchup, Ibaka pulled a “Willis Reed”, having a gigantic performance that led his team to a dominant 106-97 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Granted, his most of Ibaka’s stat sheet wasn’t loaded (15 points on six-of-seven shooting, seven rebounds in 30 minutes), but his four blocks and efficient defensive prowess allowed the Thunder to tremendously slow down the Spurs.
His star teammates, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, also showed up for the occasion, as Durant scored 25 points while grabbing 10 rebounds, and Westbrook posted a 26 point, eight rebound, seven assist, and three steal stat sheet. Reggie Jackson chipped in 15 of his own, as the Thunder took a commanding 20 point lead late in the fourth quarter.
The only reason why the final score was as close as it was, is due to the fact that the Spurs closed the game out on a 13-2 run. Despite leading 29-28 going into the second quarter, the San Antonio Spurs were only in it during the first half due to a hot half from Manu Ginobili. In the first half, Ginobili scored 20 points. In the second half, however, the Argentinian only put up three points.
The only other players in double figures for San Antonio were Kawhi Leonard with 10, and Tim Duncan with 16. Duncan also had eight rebounds, but the team as a whole was out-rebounded 52-36, after having the rebounding edge in each of the first two games.
The team also struggled in the paint, compared to the previous two games of the series. After scoring a whopping 66 points in the paint in Game 1, and 54 in Game 2, the Spurs only garnered 40 points in that manner in Game 3.
Perhaps the worst sign for the San Antonio Spurs was the no-show put up by star point guard Tony Parker who, after posting a double-double in Game 1 and scoring 22 in Game 2, mustered up only nine points on 4-of-13 shooting. His poor play was what doomed the Spurs against OKC in 2012, and if this performance turns out to be a trend instead of a one-game anomaly, impending doom may be awaiting the San Antonio Spurs.
Alas, will San Antonio bounce back to take a commanding three games to one series advantage, or will the Thunder even up the series? Everyone will find out tonight, when Game 4 airs on ESPN at 8:30/7:30 central.