SAN ANTONIO — When the Western Conference Finals looked bleak for the Thunder, trailing the Spurs 2-0, basketball aficionado Hubie Brown dissected OKC's Game 2 defeat.
It wasn't complicated, Hubie said. Count the easy shots (seven) missed by Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. You know. The guys who couldn't miss in Game 4.
Funny how a series goes. Serge and Perk looked overmatched and incompetent in missing seven Game 2 tap-ins. In the two losses in San Antonio, the two Thunder big men combined to make just six of 23 shots.
Then you saw them in Oklahoma City. In two games, Ibaka made 16 of 20 shots; Perk 9-for-13. That's 25 of 33.
And not just those two. Thabo Sefolosha played OK in San Antonio. He played spectacular back home. Nick Collison was a virtual no-show in Game 2. He was a force in both OKC games.
It reminds of Willis Reed's old adage imparted during the year he spent in Oklahoma City with the Hornets in 2005-06. Role players don't travel. Role players tend to disappear on the road.
The Thunder must counter that belief to win this series, preferably Monday night in Game 5, since Game 7 is nigh near impossible to win on the road.
This series is becoming a bit of a grind, even for the stars. Kevin Durant keeps building on his soaring status, but Russell Westbrook and James Harden are up and down. Same with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan in San Antonio black.
More and more, role players are impacting this series.
“It's the Western Conference Finals and all those guys can play,” the Spurs' Gary Neal said after Ibaka, Perkins and Nick Collison in Game 4 combined to make 22 of 25 shots and score 49 points. “You have to give them credit. They made shots.”