Serge Ibaka's heroics complemented by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook

On a night that Ibaka was the headliner, the Thunder wouldn’t have defeated the Spurs 106-97 and breathed life back into its playoff hopes without its superstars.
by Jenni Carlson Published: May 25, 2014


photo - Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9) celebrates with Russell Westbrook (0) and Kevin Durant (35) during Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, May 25, 2014. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9) celebrates with Russell Westbrook (0) and Kevin Durant (35) during Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, May 25, 2014. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Kevin Durant walked darn near to midcourt to high-five Serge Ibaka.

The hobbled and hurting big man gutted out a performance for the ages, and Durant wanted to be the first player to greet him as he exited the game. He knew who the star of the game was.

Yet on a night that Ibaka was the headliner, the Thunder wouldn’t have defeated the Spurs 106-97 and breathed life back into its playoff hopes without its superstars.

Durant and Westbrook admitted in the build up to Game 3 that they needed to be better than they’d been in the first two games of these Western Conference Finals. Much better. And they delivered.

“They knew that nobody has come back from a 3-0” deficit, Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “They brought all the emotion.”

They brought that and then some.

Durant’s line: 25 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, four turnovers.

The good folks at the Elias Sports Bureau came up with a pretty amazing stat regarding Durant. Sunday night was the 20th playoff game of his career with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds. The only other players who had more games that fit in that category before turning 26 — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (27) and Wilt Chamberlain (21).

Pretty heady company.

Westbrook’s line: 26 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals, one block, five turnovers.

There were a few maddening Bad Russ moments, particularly in the second quarter. A quick jumper in transition. A foul and a technical on the defensive end after he didn’t get a foul call that he thought he deserved on the offensive end.

But then, he scored the Thunder’s final 10 points of the first half, hit two threes from deep in the final 30 seconds and Bad Russ was a distant memory.

Westbrook was only a couple rebounds and assists short of another triple-double.

But for as vital as Durant and Westbrook were offensively, each liked what the other did defensively. Westbrook helped limit Tony Parker, who managed only nine points and four assists and wasn’t nearly as aggressive as games past. Durant spent most of the night guarding either Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green, who were big-time contributors in the first two games of the series. Sunday night, they managed only 18 points combined.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
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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