San Antonio wins series 4-2 (Game 3 of 6)

San Antonio wins series 4-2

Game 1: Monday, May 19th
Game 2: Wednesday, May 21st
Game 3: Sunday, May 25th
Game 4: Tuesday, May 27th
Game 5: Thursday, May 29th
Game 6: Saturday, May 31st

Spurs 97

(62-20, 30-11 away)

Thunder 106

(59-23, 34-7 home)

    Coverage: TNT

    8:30 PM ET, May 25, 2014

    Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

    1 2 3 4 T
    SA 29 24 23 2197
    OKC 28 29 26 23106

    Top Performers

    SA: M. Ginobili 23 Pts, 1 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl

    Okc: R. Westbrook 26 Pts, 8 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk

    Serge Ibaka's return helps Thunder avoid 3-0 series hole

    Associated Press

    OKLAHOMA CITY -- Serge Ibaka pointed to the sky, soaking in the cheers from the adoring home crowd moments before coming out of a game that, just a few days earlier, he never imagined he could play.

    He scored 15 points in a dramatic return from what was thought to be a season-ending left calf strain, helping the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs 106-97 on Sunday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

    Ibaka started after missing the first two games of the series. The Thunder originally said he would miss the rest of the playoffs but changed course Friday. His presence helped the Thunder dominate and cut the Spurs' lead in the series to 2-1.

    Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks took Ibaka out with 3:17 remaining and the Thunder ahead by 20.

    "When you talk about a teammate, that's everything you want in a teammate,'' Thunder forward Kevin Durant said. "I gained so much more respect for Serge for sacrificing himself for the team. Regardless of what happened tonight, that's something you want beside you.''

    Ibaka made six of seven shots and was a threat that gave Durant and Russell Westbrook relief. Westbrook had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Durant added 25 points and 10 rebounds.

    On defense, Ibaka was a strong physical presence who blocked and altered shots and used his still formidable mobility to close out on shooters. He had seven rebounds, four blocks and a seemingly endless amount of energy.

    "Serge has put so much work in throughout the season that missing a couple of days didn't hurt him,'' Westbrook said. "Tonight, he jumped right back into where he was.''

    Manu Ginobili scored 23 points, and Tim Duncan added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs.

    Game 4 is Tuesday night at Oklahoma City.

    The Thunder outrebounded the Spurs 52-36 after losing the battle of the boards in the first two games. San Antonio, which shot at least 50 percent in the first two games, shot just 40 percent Sunday night. The first two games looked like a layup drill for the Spurs. This time, they were forced to reset numerous times. The passes were not as quick or as easy.

    "I was very disappointed that we didn't come out with more of a foot-in-the-neck sort of attitude,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "They killed us on the boards, they beat us in 50-50 balls and that's very disappointing to me.''

    San Antonio won Game 2 112-77, leaving the Thunder humiliated.

    "I knew that we were a better team than losing by 30,'' Brooks said. "It's not us. It was us that night, but we're a much better team than that. I have a lot of respect for San Antonio, but they're not that much better than us.''

    Things were different from the start with Ibaka's return. Brooks also inserted speedy Reggie Jackson into the starting lineup in Thabo Sefolosha's place. Jackson finished with 15 points.

    "We bounced back tonight. We always talk about that bounce-back ability and we had that tonight,'' Brooks said.

    The crowd roared when Ibaka's name was announced during pregame introductions, and it got even louder when he started playing. He had eight points, three rebounds and two blocks in just more than six minutes of play in the first quarter.

    Twice in the final minute of the first half, Ginobili hit 3-pointers, and both times, Westbrook answered with a 3-pointer. The last one, with 0.6 seconds left, gave the Thunder a 57-53 lead. Oklahoma City shot 56 percent in the first half but turned the ball over 12 times. Ginobili had 20 points and made 5 of 7 3-pointers before the break to keep the Spurs close.

    Oklahoma City extended its lead to 83-76 at the end of the third quarter. A runner by Durant, then a 3-pointer by Caron Butler pushed the Thunder lead to 90-76 with just more than 10 minutes to play.

    "Hopefully we realize that if we're not intense, not very sharp and don't hustle like crazy, we're not going to win here,'' Ginobili said. "They showed us reality. Hopefully we react in Game 4 and play a much better game.''

    Notes: Thunder C Kendrick Perkins picked up his third foul eight minutes into the game. He played just 13 minutes, and finished with four points and three rebounds. Backup center Steven Adams, a rookie, had seven points and nine rebounds. ... Thunder G Derek Fisher took a hit and was bleeding from the top of his head in the first quarter. He got six stitches. ... The Thunder shot 63 percent from the field in the first quarter but trailed 29-28 at the end of the period. ... Ginobili scored just three points in the second half.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Research Notes

    The Thunder shot 22 free throws in the third quarter (making 18) while the Spurs did not attempt any, leading to the large disparity in the free throw rate.
    The Thunder have played nearly an identical amount of minutes against the Spurs with Serge Ibaka on and off the court if you combine the regular season and postseason. With Ibaka on the court - OKC is outscoring the Spurs by 29 points and allowing just 93.0 points per 100 possessions. With Ibaka off the court - the Thunder have been outscored by 44 points and they are giving up 122.6 points per 100.
    Including both the regular season and playoffs, the Spurs have now lost 8 straight games at Oklahoma City. That is their longest road losing streak against any single team in the Gregg Popovich era which dates back to 1996-97.
    Serge Ibaka's return helped the Thunder right the ship in the paint
    With news coming out that Serge Ibaka has the potential to play in Game 3 or 4 against the Spurs in Oklahoma is worth noting how effective the Spurs have been in the paint the last two games compared to the four they lost to Oklahoma City in the regular season...
    The Thunder are very comfortable down 2-1...
    With Kevin Durant down 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals to the Spurs... The last player to get swept in the postseason the same year he won the MVP award? Magic Johnson in 1988-89 for the Los Angeles Lakers... L-A got swept in the NBA Finals by the Detroit Pistons... Magic is the only player since the NBA expanded the playoff from 12 to 16 teams in 1984 to get swept in the playoffs the same year he won the MVP award...

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