Now, this is getting interesting.
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.
In fact, this might turn into one heck of a Western Conference Finals.
Thunder 106, Spurs 97.
“Serge is a great player,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s been a big part of our success. We’ve won a lot of games and won a lot of series with him, and we obviously missed him the last two games.”
Ibaka injured his calf in the final game of the second-round series against the Clippers. The Thunder ruled him out for the remainder of the playoffs, but then Friday, the team announced that his recovery was going better than expected and that he would be listed as day-to-day.
Sunday, though, he looked full speed ahead.
With the victory, the Thunder tightened up the series, and even though the Spurs still lead 2-1, the Thunder looked nothing like the team that lost the first two game of this series by double digits. It looked instead like the title contender that many pundits have tagged it to be.
On the offensive end, the Thunder shot 45.7 percent and got to the free-throw line 31 times, almost twice as much as the Spurs.
On the defensive end, the Thunder held the Spurs to 39.6 percent shooting and 40 points in the paint while causing 16 turnovers.
Not with everything, of course, but his presence returning from a calf strain at first thought to be a season ender was clearly a game changer.