As a demoralized Thunder team returned from San Antonio down 2-0, Scott Brooks knew adjustments were necessary. To flip the 2012 Western Conference Finals in OKC’s favor, Brooks needed some kind of spark.
The answer: Placing an active and disruptive Thabo Sefolosha on the previously scorching Tony Parker.
Sefolosha delivered, kickstarting one of the best stretches of his career with arguably his greatest game.
In 37 minutes of that series-changing Game 3, Sefolosha was all over the floor, compiling playoff highs of 19 points, six rebounds and six steals. He blanketed Parker, holding the star point guard to 16 unimpactful points after he had dropped 52 big ones in the first two games.
Specialosha was the headline splashed across the next day’s Oklahoman because Thabo was the unquestioned star.
“He was phenomenal,” a grateful Durant said postgame.
Two years later, the Thunder finds itself in an identical scenario. Down 2-0, rattled and reeling, OKC is searching for any kind of answer to reverse another Spurs conference finals stranglehold.
The solution, though, will likely need to come elsewhere. The times and teams have changed. San Antonio is better, James Harden is gone and Serge Ibaka, at least for now, is out with an injury. But also, of an underrated amount of significance, this Thabo Sefolosha is not that Thabo Sefolosha. Hasn’t been all season.
In a contract year, Sefolosha’s shooting percentages have fallen off a cliff. His offensive game, never great but certainly passable, has transformed into a Kendrick Perkins 2013 playoffs level of liability. In the postseason, he’s shooting 41 percent overall and 26 percent from three — with most of those looks wide open. Against the Spurs, he is scoreless in two games, missing all nine of his shots.
San Antonio’s gameplan has been to help off Sefolosha, sprint at him on the catch and force him to make off-the-dribble shots.