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Western Conference Finals: San Antonio Spurs looked their age in Game 3 loss to Thunder

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 26, 2014

No doubt you remember the sequence because of Serge Ibaka’s block.

Pretty much everything he did Sunday night was memorable.

But what happened after the Thunder big man notched his fourth block of the game, swatting away what looked like an easy Danny Green layup midway through the third quarter, should be every bit as scintillating to Oklahoma City as it is scary to San Antonio.

Reggie Jackson snared the rebound and headed up court. First, he ran away from Green. Then, he maneuvered past Tony Parker. Lastly, he accelerated by Kawhi Leonard, whose only option to keep Jackson from hitting an easy layup and sending The Peake into sheer pandemonium was to foul.

The Spurs looked slow.

It wasn’t the only time.

“They were more aggressive than us,” Spurs super sub Manu Ginobili said. “They were more attentive. We were always slow.

“It felt like we were slow.”

Only a few days ago, the Spurs looked anything but. It seemed they had a fountain of youth to go along with their Riverwalk in San Antonio. Tim Duncan was scoring 20 points in a half. Tony Parker was flying to the basket. Ginobili was heating up from three.

They didn’t look 38 or 32 or 36.

But suddenly, the ageless Spurs seem aged. Tired. Old. Maybe it was just an aberration Sunday night. Maybe the Thunder simply got a one-game boost from Ibaka’s return from injury. Maybe the Spurs will return to their fast-cutting, ball-moving ways of last week as the Western Conference Finals continues.

Or maybe, the Thunder is starting to wear down the Spurs just like it wore down the Grizzlies and the Clippers in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Remember, of course, that Oklahoma City trailed early in those series as well. The Thunder was down 2-1 to the Grizzlies before rallying in seven games, then dropped the opener against the Clippers before winning in six. Over the course of both series, the Thunder got progressively better, especially on the defensive end.

Memphis shot better than 44 percent twice in the first three games of the series. Over the last four games, the Grizzlies only topped that mark once.

Los Angeles shot a whopping 54.9 percent in that series opener but went downhill from there. 44.6. 45.2. 41.9. 43.2. 42.1.

The trend has continued against San Antonio, which leads the series 2-1. After the Spurs shot 57.5 and 50.0 percent from the floor in the first two games, they managed to hit just 39.6 percent on Sunday. Granted, Ibaka was a significant part of that, but with him in uniform — as he’s expected to be from here on out — it seems entirely possible that the Thunder could replicate that type of performance.

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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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