Ibaka, Thunder bounce back

Serge Ibaka surprised everyone when he announced he was set to return to the Thunder lineup after straining a muscle in his calf in Game Six against the Clippers. He was supposed to be out for the rest of the Playoffs. And his presence was important, to say the least.

Scott Brooks surprised everyone when he opted to bench Thabo Sefolosha in favor of Reggie Jackson. Oklahoma City needed the bolt of energy. It all came together to deliver the Thunder an important win.

Ibaka scored 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, providing the spark and energy to give the Thunder a 106-97 win. The Spurs could not get in the paint with the ease they did in Games One and Two. Ibaka can change that much with his shotblocking. The Thunder outscored the Spurs in the paint 46-40. A humongous turnaround from the first two games.

Kevin Durant scored 25 points and Russell Westbrook broke out in the third quarter from an early slump to score 26.

Oklahoma City’s defense was the difference however. Ibaka had four blocks and Steven Adams had four more. The Thunder had 10 as a team. The Spurs shot just 39.6 percent from the floor.

They made their 3-pointers in the first half but could not sink them in the second, settling more and more, failing to get to the line and failing to make in-roads in the paint.

Oklahoma City controlled the paint and and controlled the pace. This was their night to show they were still in this series and give the Spurs some questions to answer.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily