SAN ANTONIO -- Ninety minutes before Game 1 tip-off, Thunder coach Scott Brooks decided it was the “appropriate time” to reveal his starting lineup change.
With Serge Ibaka out, he had plenty of options. Brooks went with veteran Nick Collison. Why?
“Why not?” Brooks said. “You don’t like Nick? Everybody likes Nick.”
Then Brooks went on to actually give his reasoning.
“Nick gives us a good option, knows what we do,” Brooks said. “It’s a good matchup with (Tiago) Splitter. Splitter is a very physical player, great roller, great finisher around the rim. It gives us a guy that can stay in front of him and also our pick-and-roll coverages are important, and Nick is one of our best pick-and-roll defenders.”
The new starting lineup was outscored by 11 points in the first half, but it outscored the Spurs by five in the second.
SERGE IBAKA’S TWEET
Back in Oklahoma City receiving treatment, Serge Ibaka sent well-wishes to his teammates on Monday afternoon.
Before the Western Conference series between the Thunder and Spurs started, Ibaka sent out a good luck tweet, his first public statement since the calf injury that is expected to end his season.
“Thanks everyone for your support the last few days,” Ibaka’s tweet read. “I’m ready to watch and cheer 4 my teammates in this next challenge #TeamisOne #Thunderup.”
Forced into some unique lineup combinations, Brooks finally pulled Jeremy Lamb out of the deep freeze.
The Thunder rookie, who was so good in stretches this season before slumping down the stretch and falling from the rotation, received five first-half minutes and two more in mop-up time. He scored two points.
ANDRE ROBERSON ACTIVE
For the first time in his playoff career, Andre Roberson was active on Monday night. And it came in a fitting place — San Antonio, his hometown.
The rookie played the final two minutes in mop-up duty.
In honor of Kevin Durant’s first MVP award, Spalding produced 2,014 officially licensed KD MVP basketballs, complete with a picture of Durant, a Thunder logo and a list of his awards and honors.
The ball is priced at $99. There are only about 500 left. The proceeds got to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oklahoma. Fans can order by calling 1-800-345-2868.
POPOVICH ON KERR
The latest lead man in the NBA coaching fraternity is Steve Kerr, the Warriors new head coach who is also one of the TNT analysts for the Western Conference Finals.
“Well, I’m not really sure why I have to have him interview me before the game because he’s a competitor now, with all that TNT stuff,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich joked. “That’s my main concern.”
But then the Spurs coach, who coached Kerr on two of his title teams and now considers him a friend, went on to laud Golden State’s hire.
“He’s been around, he’s seen a lot, he’s seen enough to know what he doesn’t want to do,” Popovich said. “He’s great with interpersonal relationships. He’s a hard worker.”
STAT OF THE DAY
On Monday night, including playoffs, Ibaka missed only his fourth game out of 374 the past four seasons.
Game 2 comes on Wednesday night in San Antonio. Tip is at 8 p.m. Oklahoma time on TNT. Following Game 2, there is a three-day break before the series resumes in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.