THUNDER TRAILS SERIES
7 Assists for Russell Westbrook in addition to 26 points, eight rebounds and three steals
10 Blocked shots by the Thunder, including four by Steven Adams to go with his seven points and nine rebounds
10 Rebounds for Kevin Durant, in addition to 25 points and three assists
12-3 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night
15 Points for Reggie Jackson, in addition to five assists and four rebounds in his first start of this postseason
26-for-31 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, including 16-for-16 from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined.
52-36 The Thunder’s rebounding advantage on the night, thanks to forcing San Antonio to 39.6 percent from the field
May 25th, 2014
The emotion in the building seemingly crested during the introduction of the Thunder starting lineup, when Serge Ibaka’s name was called. Little did the fans inside Chesapeake Energy Arena know that they would reach an even higher decibel in praise of the Congolese forward once the game action began.
Ibaka missed the first two games of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs due to a calf strain, but suited up and played through the pain on Sunday night, helping the Thunder earn an intense 106-97 victory. It was a storybook start, as Russell Westbrook hit Ibaka for a 19-foot jumper on the Thunder’s opening offensive possession. All told, Ibaka scored eight points on 4-for-4 shooting in the first quarter, and gave the Thunder an enormous emotional and physical boost in its much-needed Game 3 win.
“I was so emotional, but you couldn’t really tell because I was on the court,” Ibaka said. “I just want to thank my teammates, thank Russell, he tried to get me going early in the game. Kevin (Durant), (Kendrick) Perkins, Reggie (Jackson). I will never stop thanking them for tonight. I will never forget that. It was very special tonight.”
Beyond just the spirit and guts that Ibaka brought to the Thunder lineup, he was a force to be reckoned with on the court throughout the night. Pushing himself to play 30 minutes, Ibaka finished with 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting while adding seven rebounds and four blocked shots to a stout Thunder defensive effort.
Overall, the Thunder held the Spurs to just 39.6 percent shooting and forced 16 turnovers. It was a full team effort as Head Coach Scott Brooks’ perimeter defenders locked down Tony Parker and the Spurs shooters, while Kendrick Perkins, Steven Adams and, of course, Ibaka, dominated the paint, holding the Spurs to 20-for-42 shooting inside the lane.
“Serge obviously gave us an emotional and a playing boost,” Brooks said. “He helps our offense. He spreads the floor. You have to be able to guard his jump shot and he does a good job of rolling and catching around the basket. And defensively he blocks and alters shots.”
In addition to getting Ibaka back in the lineup, Brooks gave the Thunder a punch in the arm by inserting Reggie Jackson into the starting shooting guard spot. Jackson chipped in 15 points, five assists and four rebounds in a game-high 37 minutes of action, helping take some pressure off of Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
The Thunder’s All-Star duo combined for 51 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists on the night, but it was also the way they defended and led that proved essential to victory on the night. The details were crucial on Sunday, as the Thunder out-rebounded the Spurs by 16 and held San Antonio to just three fast break points. That focus and intensity stemmed from the tone set by the Thunder’s two leaders.
“(Durant) was great, just locked in on whoever he was guarding and he was focused on that end,” Westbrook said. “Obviously he can score with the best of them and he stayed aggressive all night long for us.”
“Russ’ intensity on the basketball defensively, and wreaking havoc with his athleticism and strength on the defensive end,” Durant said. “He played with such poise and resiliency after struggling shooting the basketball early but stuck with it and hit some huge shots for us. He attacked all night but made the right basketball play.”
Seemingly everyone who saw the court made an impact tonight, from the starters to bench players like Steven Adams, who stepped in to put up seven points, nine rebounds and four blocks in 28 minutes. In addition, Jeremy Lamb was re-inserted into the rotation, using his length, activity and shooting ability to pose a threat on both ends of the floor. Lamb’s ability to stay ready and prepare himself despite not being in the rotation of late was impressive, particularly for a man just in his second NBA season.
“You never know when you’ll get your number called,” Brooks said. “You have to be ready. He did a good job in his minutes and made a couple of buckets. Defensively, he still has to continue to stay focused and lock in on his man, but his activity was good as the game went on and as he played.”
The Thunder broke this game open with a big run to start the fourth quarter, turning what was a tightly contested affair into a runaway victory. Heading into the final period, the Thunder held a seven-point lead, but rattled off seven straight points en route to a 12-2 run to turn an 83-76 edge into a 95-78 advantage with 7:44 left in the game.
The run started with tough defense, as the Thunder forced Boris Diaw into a missed three-pointer, then Kevin Durant drew an offensive foul on Patty Mills. Surrounding those two stops was a driving layup by Reggie Jackson and a Durant runner in the lane. After forcing another missed three, Derek Fisher found Caron Butler in the corner for a three-pointer. Out of a timeout, Diaw hit a tough jumper, but The Thunder got back on the board next with a Steven Adams old-fashioned three-point play. Durant then capped the run with a driving layup, effectively putting the game out of reach.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Serge Ibaka makes his presence felt early by contesting a long two point jumper. Great job by Kevin Durant to keep his hands in the passing lane to deflect a pass and start a fast break. Strong box out by Ibaka on defense, then he pump fakes to free himself up for a floater. Nice off-ball defense by Reggie Jackson to force a Spurs turnover. Derek Fisher stays aware and tracks down a loose defensive rebound. Ibaka’s length and activity forces a shot to miss badly. Excellent pressure by Russell Westbrook to force a Spurs turnover, then Durant’s pressure forces another turnover.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Westbrook’s activity off the ball on defense forces the Spurs into a disjointed possession, coming up with a tough, contested shot. Incredible closeout by Westbrook on the perimeter to force Danny Green inside the three-point line and into an air-ball. Steven Adams fights four Spurs underneath the basket to haul in an offensive rebound, then draws the foul, before Fisher tips out an offensive rebound. Tight defense on an out of bounds play forces a turnover without anyone touching the ball.
“I liked how our defense got better as the game went on. We were active, did a good job of helping for one another. Our bigs did a great job of protecting the paint and protecting the basket, but that’s what they do.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks