Ibaka's return sparks Thunder win over Spurs
OKLAHOMA CITY, USA - Serge Ibaka returned from injury and sparked the Oklahoma City Thunder to a much-needed 106-97 NBA playoff victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
With the victory the Thunder climbed back into the best-of-7 Western Conference finals after the Spurs won the first two games by an average of 26 points.
Russell Westbrook scored 26 points with 7 assists and 8 rebounds for the Thunder, who also drew 25 points and 10 rebounds from NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant.
But the injection of energy from Ibaka, who missed the first two games of the series with a left calf injury that was expected to sideline him for the rest of the playoffs, was key.
Two days after his injury status was upgraded to day-to-day, Ibaka was inserted into the starting lineup and hit his first five shots from the floor.
He provided a strong defensive presence, with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich saying he was "everywhere."
"Serge is always great in the paint, he blocks shots, he changes shots. He did a fine job," Popovich said.
Spain's Ibaka finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in just under 30 minutes on the floor.
Manu Ginobili scored 23 points and Tim Duncan added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs. However, Spurs point guard Tony Parker endured a tough night, connecting on just 4 of his 13 attempts from the field and finishing with 9 points.
The Thunder will try to level the series when they host Game 4 on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
The winners of the series will face either two-time defending NBA champions Miami or Indiana for the NBA crown. The Heat lead the Eastern Conference Finals series, 2-1. – Rappler.com