Serge Ibaka’s injury changes the complexion of the Thunder-Spurs series, turning San Antonio from slight to prohibitive favorite.
But there’s another health issue that could swing it back in the other direction.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker continues to deal with a lingering hamstring issue, which forced him to miss time in the regular season and knocked him out of the Spurs’ final game against the Blazers on Wednesday.
Parker says he’s hopeful to play in Game 1, but how effective he can be is the key question. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Parker didn’t practice on Friday and won’t practice on Saturday.
“He's going to stay off it today and tomorrow,” Popovich told reporters. “They're going to put him on the treadmill a little bit and a bike and shoot a little bit and see where we're at.”
JACKSON CALLS ADAMS ‘POTENTIAL’ HALL OF FAMER
Over the past two weeks, Steven Adams has emerged from the end of the bench to cement his place in the Thunder rotation.
And his loudest statement came on Thursday night, when Adams was forced into extended action after Serge Ibaka went down with a calf injury. Playing a career-high 40 minutes, he finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, his second career double-double. He was active on offense, disruptive on defense and impactful on both ends, compiling a game-high plus-17 during his time on the floor.
The impressive showing even caused point guard Reggie Jackson, known for his bouts of exaggeration, to make a bold postgame statement about the 20-year-old rookie.
“He has the potential to be a Hall of Famer,” Jackson said.
“Not going to lie, there isn’t really anything he can’t do,” Jackson continued. “Jumps out of the gym, very physical, strong, gifted, can shoot hook shots with either hand. People don’t really get to see, but he’s pretty comfortable shooting mid-range shots. If we ever just let him loose and he starts to figure things out, he’ll be a scary player in this league.”
The Hall of Fame talk is about 15 years premature and bolder than a Russell Westbrook postgame outfit. But the longterm optimism surrounding Adams seems to be growing by the game. And the rookie will have to continue to grow up quick, with Ibaka now out for the remainder of the postseason.
PERK ON REGGIE
In the Thunder’s gritty closeout win on Thursday night, Adams wasn’t the only OKC reserve to play a huge role.
Kendrick Perkins, in fact, labeled the second-unit as the stars of the game.
“Nick (Collison) played well,” Perkins said. “He didn’t play a lot of minutes in this series and he came in and gave us a big spark. (Derek) Fisher came in the second quarter and I though the way he came in and guarded Jamal Crawford and hit a couple big shots sparked us. Then Reggie played some of the best defense I’ve seen him play since I got here.”
The Thunder bench outscored the Clippers bench 35-17.
“I always say, throughout the series, one guy is going to win a game for you who is not your superstar,” Perkins said. “Tonight, we had four of them coming off the bench. That was key.”
PERK, FISH PRAISE CLIPPERS
Following a dramatic six-game battle with the Clippers that included a variety of technicals and tussles, two of the Thunder’s most respected veterans went out of their way to compliment Los Angeles’ performance.
“In the midst of one of the most disturbing, sad situations that we’ve seen in sports, ever,” Derek Fisher said of the Donald Sterling scandal, “the effort that they were able to give for six games in this series is something to be talked about for a long time. They deserve a lot more credit than they’ll probably get.”
Perkins called the Clippers “a problem” for the NBA in the next couple seasons, identifying the strides taken by their big men.
“We did a pretty good job on them, but I’ll tell you one thing, both those guys improved their game a lot,” Perkins said. “Blake (Griffin) hitting jumpers now that you really have to go out and contest and DJ (DeAndre Jordan) got a whole lot better at what he does. So like a said, this is a team that’s gonna be real scary.”