Serge Ibaka was back, which meant Serge Ibaka was starting. That was a no-brainer for Scott Brooks.
But there were two changes to Brooks’ starting lineup before Sunday night’s 106-97 momentum-shifting win for the Thunder — the second not as loud or heroic but nearly as impactful as Ibaka’s triumphant return.
For the first time in his career, Reggie Jackson started alongside Russell Westbrook. He replaced the previously ineffective Thabo Sefolosha and injected some needed offensive punch into the lineup, playing a game-high 37 minutes and scoring 15 points — six more than three OKC starters combined for in the first two games.
And moving forward, Jackson solidified himself as the team’s new starting shooting guard.
“Is he going to remain?” Brooks quipped when asked if Jackson would stay the starter. “What do you think?”
The only worry with Jackson — and the only argument for Sefolosha — is Reggie’s spotty and sometimes glaringly bad defense this season. And placing him on the scorching hot Danny Green started as a concern and turned into a nightmare in the early going.
Two of the Spurs’ first three baskets were Green 3-pointers — his 12th and 13th of the series — coming off defensive errors by Jackson.
“I was frustrated with myself,” he said.
But after that, Jackson cranked it up on that end. With Ibaka roaming the paint behind him, Jackson was able to play up on Green, pressuring the standstill shooter and forcing him into more uncomfortable looks off the dribble. After making those first two shots, Green finished 1-of-10 in the game.