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.
“Last night is more of who we are,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Monday after practice. “Our game plan has always been a defensive mindset, and that was the case last night.”
And that defense led to better offensive opportunities for the Thunder. Its fastbreak points weren’t any better than the first two games of the series, but the pace of the offense was faster and better. Working off misses instead of makes, the Thunder was able it to get into its offense quicker.
“We got on our heels too much,” Duncan said, “and the result was what it was.”
The hard-to-guard Thunder was even harder to guard when the Spurs didn’t have a chance to set up and hunker down.
“We get a lot of open looks, and Kevin and Russ have a lot of lanes to drive and do what they do, what they’re great at,” Thunder veteran Caron Butler said. “We just have to continue to hang our hat on defense, rebound the ball and shrink the court.
“If we continue to do that, we’ll be fine.”
And the Spurs just might be in trouble.
Listen, I understand that the Spurs are supremely talented, extremely disciplined and remarkably coached. They could come back Tuesday night with a win, then go back to San Antonio with a chance to close out the series Thursday night on home hardwood.
But if Sunday night is any indication, the Thunder has found a way to take advantage of its young legs and exploit the Spurs’ aging ones. To force San Antonio into uncomfortable situations. To make the fellows in black and silver look their age.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.