Oklahoma City Thunder ‘Serge’ Back in Series

Oklahoma City Thunder

Serge Ibaka hit the first shot of the night, setting the tone for game three and putting the Oklahoma City Thunder back in the series after an 0-2 start against the San Antonio Spurs. Ibaka finished 6 for 7 with 15 points, 7 rebounds, four blocks, and a steal from Tony Parker that led to a resounding dunk by Kevin Durant. The Thunder are still down 2-1 to the Spurs but retain home court advantage and major momentum for game four.

Both teams came out in high intensity for the first quarter, and the lead changed hands several times in the first 15 minutes, but San Antonio ultimately came out on top with a 29-28 lead. Play was aggressive and physical, leading to several fouls and turnovers. Kendrick Perkins was sent to the bench with four minutes left after drawing his second offensive foul in less than a minute, and Russell Westbrook received a technical foul call from the official after contesting a personal foul called on his attempted steal from Manu Ginobili.

The second quarter began just like the first, with each team driving hard and fast. Derek Fisher hit a long three-point shot that set the crowd cheering, but it was answered immediately by Ginobili hitting the net from the arc. Seconds later, Fisher was shown walking back to the locker room with a trainer holding a towel to an open wound on the top of his head. The Spurs were just holding on to their two-point lead until a Westbrook steal and an Ibaka second-chance two-point shot put Oklahoma City up. The following 13-2 run—which included three turnovers committed by Tony Parker—gave them an 11 point lead, and they never looked back. The Spurs ate away at some of the deficit as the first half wound down, and Ginobili hit a three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left, but Durant stole his spotlight with a last-second nothing-but-net shot from the “H” on the floor logo, ending the half with Oklahoma City up 57-53 over the Spurs.

The Thunder out-shot the Spurs by 14 percent in the first half, though San Antonio fared better from the three-point line. The Spurs were outscored in the second quarter for the first time since round one of the playoffs, 12 games ago. Oklahoma City continued the trend for the remainder of the game, largely thanks to several major plays by Serge Ibaka, giving them the edge in the game and putting them back in a series that looked like a lost cause.

Oklahoma City opened the third quarter with a 10-4 run that gave them a 10 point lead, which they maintained for the most part throughout the quarter. The Spurs edged back in a few times, but each attempted rally by San Antonio was met with another run by the Thunder. At least two of those runs started with a blocked shot by Ibaka, who was all over both ends of the court. Ibaka limped for the first time in the third quarter after a foul but waved off Scott Brooks when the coach motioned for him to come out. Fisher returned to the game with six stitches in his head, and a few minutes later Ibaka left the floor to address his severely strained left calf, which was supposed to have kept him out for the rest of the season. Two turnovers, one by each team, were committed with one second left in the quarter. Neither team scored off of those chances, and the third quarter ended with an 83-76 Oklahoma City lead.

The Spurs lost control of the scoring when the Thunder started the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run and took a 14 point lead. Ibaka returned halfway through the quarter after ice and massage therapy and continued to score, block, and grab rebounds. Westbrook almost comically missed a dunk on a breakaway, but managed to grab the rebound before Parker and laid it up for two points. Ibaka returned to the bench with three minutes and 17 seconds left, receiving a standing ovation from the Thunder fans. He finished the game tied for third in scoring with Reggie Jackson. Westbrook and Durant lead with 26 and 25 points, respectively, while Steven Adams came off the bench for seven points, nine rebounds, and four blocks.

Ginobili led the scoring for the Spurs from the bench with 23 points for the night. Tim Duncan scored 16 points, but Parker clearly had an off-night and banked only nine points while committing four of the team’s 16 turnovers. San Antonio had only three fast-break points to Oklahoma City’s 12, and shot only 39.6 percent from the field, going 10 for 26 from the arc.

The Thunder closed the game with a 106-97 win over the Spurs, capitalizing on the return of Serge Ibaka to edge back into the series. Game four will be played in Oklahoma City, where the home team will try to ride the momentum to a 2-2 tie and fight for a spot in the NBA Finals.

Commentary by Christina Jones

USA Today

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