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Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka returns to court, OKC returns to win column

On the night that Serge Ibaka returned not only to the court but also to the starting lineup, the Thunder returned to the win column. There will be no Spurs sweep. There will be no breezing to the NBA Finals for San Antonio.
by Jenni Carlson Published: May 25, 2014

A series changer, too.

“I think I did pretty well,” Ibaka said after the game on TNT, “and also not only me but my teammates, too. We did a great job to make them take some tough shots.”

With Ibaka back, the Spurs shot 48 percent in the paint in Game 3. In the first two games of the series, they shot 67 percent.

Another revealing stat from the first half: the Spurs’ average field-goal attempt length was 16.4 with Ibaka on the court. When he was on the bench, it was 7.8 feet.

The Ibaka Effect was obvious.

“Serge is always great in the paint,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He blocks shots. He changes shots. He did a fine job.”

The Thunder faithful thought so, too. Ibaka finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, and when he checked out in the fourth quarter, he was given a long, loud ovation. He gave the sign of the cross, looked up, pointed both index fingers skyward and left up one of those extended index fingers as he walked to the bench.

The ovation only grew.

Ibaka is sure to get lots of love Tuesday night, too. Game 4 will be at 8 at The Peake.

“He was incredible,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “For sure, he’s a great player. He provides them with a lot of things, not only mid-range shots but also defensive. He really helped them.”

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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