SAN ANTONIO — Moments before tipoff of the opening game of the Western Conference Finals, Serge Ibaka had some words of encouragement for his teammates.
“Let’s Go,” he tweeted.
That was all he could do for the Thunder on Monday night. Sidelined by a calf injury, the power forward didn’t even make the trip from Oklahoma City to San Antonio.
The Thunder sure could’ve used him.
Spurs 122, Thunder 105.
The Spurs took advantage of Ibaka’s absence. During the four regular-season games that these two teams played, the Spurs averaged 41.5 points in the paint. They had nearly that many at halftime Monday night.
San Antonio had 40 points in the paint in the first half. Even though the Oklahoma City defense stiffened in the third quarter and allowed only 10 points down low, the Spurs added another 16 points in the paint in the fourth quarter when they put away the Thunder.
Total points in the paint: 66.
“We have to do a much better job defensively,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They were able to get whatever they wanted.”
It was clear from the get-go that the Spurs were going to try to exploit the loss of the Thunder’s rim protector, starting with Tim Duncan. The Spurs big man turned back the clock, scoring 21 points in the first half, hitting 9 of 12 shots and having his way with the Thunder front line.
Duncan, who finished with a team-high 27 points, didn’t look like a guy who’s been in the league 16 years.