The Oklahoma City Thunder weren’t going to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. You knew they’d be better at home and they were Thursday night in Game 3 as they impressively won 102-82.
The Spurs looked unbeatable in the first two games which lengthened their winning streak to 20 games in the process. It would be understandable for them to lose a game to the Thunder who are an extremely talented team.
But they lost by 20. The Thunder made significant adjustments and they worked. That’s a bigger deal.
The Thunder changed their rotation from Games 1 and 2. They played Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha much more than they had been and it changed everything.
Sefolosha really took advantage having one of his best games of the year scoring 19 points, making six steals and making four threes.
It was on the defensive side that the Thunder really improved. The Spurs torched the Thunder in Game 2 and in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and it led to Scott Brooks changing the way the Thunder defended the Spurs’ pick-and-roll.
The Thunder went with a small lineup more often in Game 3 and in the fourth quarter of Game 2. They started switching everything and playing with a sense of desperation that was absent before.
Sefolosha took on the task of guarding Tony Parker in Game 3. Parker scored 34 points on 16-of-21 shooting in Game 2 but was held much more intact in Game 3 with just 16 points.
Sefolosha is one of the best defenders in the league and clearly relished the challenge of defending Parker but the rest of the Thunder defense stepped up as well.
Russell Westbrook seemed much more comfortable playing defense off the ball more rather than chasing Parker around pick-and-rolls. He could more freely roam and disrupt passing lanes and later in the game swarmed Manu Ginobili so much on a possession, the Spurs couldn’t even pass him the ball.
Kendrick Perkins, who was somewhat called out for his inability to defend the pick-and-roll, looked like a different player last night. His activity and movement in general was much better and he even stopped Parker and Ginobili from scoring when he switched out on them in one-on-one situations.
A loss might be just one loss but the Thunder team that lost the first two games of this series in San Antonio is no more. The Thunder team we saw in Game 3 is closer to the one we will see for the rest of this series.
The Spurs know what they are and who they are. They will play that way every night. The Thunder are still growing and after losing the first two games had a sort of luxury to adjust and improve.
The Spurs will get that chance for Game 4 too Saturday night in Oklahoma City at 8:30 p.m. EST.