Oklahoma City’s already altered lineup took an even different look eight minutes into Sunday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
In the span of 20 seconds early in the Thunder’s eventual 106-97 win, center Kendrick Perkins was called for illegal screen fouls on back-to-back possessions.
The first, Perkins grabbed Tim Duncan as Russell Westbrook laid the ball in.
A few moments later, Perkins set a pick for Kevin Durant on Manu Ginobili and was called for his third foul overall.
The foul sent Perkins to the bench for the remainder of the half and brought on Steven Adams.
Adams, no stranger to quick foul trouble himself, stayed composed. He didn’t pick up his first foul until the final four minutes of the half, when he’d already played nearly nine minutes.
Adams didn’t pick up his second foul until midway through the fourth quarter.
With just less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Derek Fisher sank a 3-pointer from the side that put the Thunder up 26-22.
Boris Diaw, defending the shot, raked his fingernails on Fisher’s head, drawing blood.
After Ginobili hit a 3-pointer on the other end, Fisher had to leave the game and go to the locker room where it took six stitches to close the wound.
Fisher returned the game with a little more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Fisher’s absence led to extended first-half minutes for Jeremy Lamb.
Lamb played the entire second quarter, although he didn’t play in the second half until the Thunder had the game in the bag.
Lamb scored four points but struggled on Ginobili defensively in the quarter. Ginobili scored 11 of his 23 points in the second.
PARKER COUGHS IT UP
After turning the ball over just five times combined in the first two games of the series, Spurs veteran Tony Parker struggled to keep possessions at times in Game 3.
Parker turned the ball over four times, including twice in less than a minute in the first half as the Thunder reeled off eight consecutive points and took the lead for good.
The Spurs turned the ball over 16 times after turning it over 21 times combined in the first two games.
“We didn’t play good basketball, and it starts with me,” Parker said. “I need to play better.”
The Thunder attempted 22 free throws in the fourth quarter. The Spurs had none.
“We have to be more aggressive and penetrate better,” Parker said. “We have to do everything harder.”
PARKER BRUSHES OFF 2012 COMPARISON
The Spurs have now lost eight consecutive games in Oklahoma City dating back to the 2012 Western Conference Finals.
In that series, San Antonio won the first two games at home before the Thunder won four consecutive games to advance to the NBA Finals.
Parker was in no mood for comparisons after Sunday’s game.
“Each year’s different and this year is different so we can’t think like that,” Parker said. “All we can control right now is Game 4 and play better.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he was disappointed his team didn’t play with a “foot-on-the-neck sort of attitude.”
“You know what, you can talk about whatever you want to,” Duncan said. “They beat us. They beat us tonight. We’re going to play another game, and we’re going to be ready for that one. However you want to twist it or turn it or give credit to whoever, they beat us and we’re moving on.”
For the second time in these playoffs, veteran guard Thabo Sefolosha was yanked from the Thunder’s starting lineup.
And just like back in the Memphis series, that meant no Sefolosha at all on Sunday night against the Spurs. He didn’t play a minute after playing more than 25 minutes combined in the first two games.
With the starting lineup expected to stay the same moving forward, there’s now a decent possibility that the long-time OKC forward has played his final minutes in Thunder blue.
He’s a free agent in the offseason, and signs indicate he’s not likely to be back.
Also missing from the floor Sunday was Nick Collison.
Collison had played more than 28 minutes over the first two games.
Adams when told of the updated status of Ibaka by the media: “When was this?...You guys probably know more than me, I’m just a rookie.”
Game 4 is on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. Tip is at 8 Oklahoma time on TNT.