Kevin Durant was asked Monday if Game 3 was about pride. He said no, but the more he talked, the more you realized that indeed motivated the Thunder.
“We just wanted to win, man,” Durant said. “That's all we wanted to do was win, take it a possession at a time. Guys don't take too well to being — felt like we were laughed at. That's how it felt. Everybody was just joking and laughing at us, saying we quit, saying we're going to lose, we're going to get swept.
“We take that to heart. I'm not saying that the series is over with now because we won a game, but we definitely have a lot of pride here. We want to take the challenge. This is the best challenge we have, so we've got to take it head on.”
BUTLER BELIEVED IN SERGE
Thunder newcomer Caron Butler knows Serge Ibaka’s back story – growing up in war-torn Congo – and that in part was a reason Butler believed Ibaka would return from a calf strain sooner than advertised.
“That’s one of the main reasons when I kept getting asked repeatedly, ‘Do you think Serge is going to come back? Is he out for the playoffs?’ and I was just like, ‘I think he'll be back,’” Butler said. “In my head and in my heart, I just felt that way the whole time just because of what he's come from, and he's been resilient and been able to overcome any type of adversity off the court. So this little thing right here with an injury, I was just like, if it's a will, it's a way, and he has a lot of will, so he's going to be out there.”
Ibaka quizzed Butler about his injury history.
“He was just asking me, ‘How did you feel? I just want to be able to give something,’” Butler said. “And I was just like, ‘Man, just you being out there is going to give a ton. The crowd is going to give us that lift that we need. Everyone is going to be engaged, and it's just going to make your brothers just work that much harder out there on the court, seeing you out there. We definitely did that, and he gave us more than a lift.”
PARKER BLAMES HIMSELF
Multiple Spurs said point guard Tony Parker was hard on himself after a Game 3 in which he made just four of 13 shots and had as many turnovers (four) as assists.
“I take a lot of responsibility,” Parker said. “That’s my job on this team, to get everything going. That’s why I took it hard last night, because I felt like I didn’t play well.”
The Thunder in the third quarter of Game 3 made just four of 17 shots. But the Thunder attempted 22 foul shots, making 18. The Spurs did not attempt a foul shot in that period.
“That’ll kill you every time,” said San Antonio’s Tim Duncan. “Those are easy points, especially for them, a team that kind of lives on the free-throw line, and something that we’ve done a great job of kind of keeping them off of.”
For the game, the Thunder had 31 fouls shots, the Spurs 16. Was that discrepancy a result of the Thunder being the much more-aggressive team?
“That’s what I told my team,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
Russell Westbrook and Durant each went 8-of-8 from the foul line. They had combined for just 17 attempts in the first two games.
“Durant and Westbrook shot too many free throws, and we took care of that the first two games,” Popovich said. “But that got away from us, for instance, in Game 3. That's a big part of what they do. That can't happen.”
The Thunder’s Jeremy Lamb played just 61/2 minutes total in three games of the Memphis series. He played just 81 seconds of the Clipper series, not counting the fourth quarter of a Game 1 blowout loss. He played just 4:58 in Game 1 against the Spurs and just 1:47 in Game 2, before garbage time when the games were decided.
But Lamb played the entire second quarter of Game 3, in part because Derek Fisher suffered a cut on his head that required six stitches and in part because Lamb was effective.
In 13:15 of the first half, Lamb had four points and three rebounds. He got lost a couple of times defensively, but Lamb’s offensive assertiveness was a welcome sight.
“He gave us good offensive minutes,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He has the ability to make a jump shot, and we like that and we need that. But defensively it's still something he's going to have to continue to lock in on because he's guarding really good players that are experienced, and their offense, they make you play for 24 seconds. But I thought he gave us good minutes.”
San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard averaged 12.8 points and shot 52.2 percent from the field in the regular season. Through two playoff series, Leonard averaged 14.0 points and shot 52.5 percent from the field.
But through three games against the Thunder, Leonard has averaged just 10.0 points and has made just 13 of 31 shots. Leonard’s defense on Durant has been solid, but the Spurs could use an offensive lift from Leonard.
“I take what the defense gave me,” Leonard said Monday. “But I got to the paint a few more times yesterday. Shots just didn’t really fall for me.”
Leonard did get off four shots right at the rim, but six of his 11 shots were from longer than 16 feet.
JACKSON BROUGHT ACTION
The Spurs were well aware of the changes Reggie Jackson brought to the starting lineup.
“Gives them another scoring guard, another threat from the perimeter,” said the Spurs’ Danny Green. “I’m not saying (Thabo) Sefolosha is not capable of knocking down shots, but he’s definitely more aggressive, another ballhandler where Russ (Westbrook) doesn’t have to have the whole load on him of bringing it up every time and making plays. Reggie is another playmaker.”