Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Sparks In Starting Lineup Bring Change In Weather: The Thunder Roll Through Game 3

The big talk leading up to Game 3 was, of course, the return of defensive anchor Serge Ibaka. Any defensive help was going to be highly desired for the Thunder after taking a 35-point (112-77) Game 2 loss. And that one came off the heels of a 17-point (122-105) loss in Game 1. Having lost the past two games by a combined 52 points, it was beginning to look like the writing was on the wall once again for the Thunder, and that the writing read, “Sorry, but this is not your year.” Luckily there were three days between Game 2 and Game 3. And in those three days, Thunder fans received a very welcome bit of news. The swelling and stiffness Ibaka was experiencing in his calf had significantly reduced to the point where he was once again able to walk under his own power. Not only that, but he had actually gotten to the point where he was doing light practice drills. The media, though obviously cautious about jumping the gun, seemed genuinely excited that Ibaka could potentially return in time for Game 3. Anything that would turn this into a competitive series would be a welcome change from the blowouts that were putting viewers to sleep. Ibaka’s return wasn’t the only lineup change on tap for Game 3, however. Admittedly, I can be critical of Thunder head coach Scott Brooks at times. He’s not the greatest at drawing up plays during timeouts. However, I will have to give him credit for being able to pull the trigger on starting lineup changes. Noticing that Thabo Sefolosha was 0-for-9 shooting in the series, Brooks decided to give Reggie Jackson a chance to start in the 2 spot. I personally loved the choice of Jackson. The difference between wins and losses in the first two games came down to the fact that the Spurs were attacking the basket instead of merely settling for jump shots. Having Jackson on the floor with Russell Westbrook? That would mean either Thunder guard could drive the lane at any given time. So how did the adjustments work out? Last night’s game resulted in a 106-97 Thunder victory. Kevin Durant finished with a 25-point, 10 rebound double-double, while Westbrook added 26 points of his own. Ibaka and Jackson finished with 15 points apiece. Ibaka’s came off of 6-for-7 (85.8%), while Jackson finished 6-for-13 (46.2%). The Thunder defense was sparked significantly by Ibaka, as only three Spurs players finished in double figures. Kawhi Leonard’s 10 points and Tim Duncan’s 16 points were both outdone by Manu Ginobili’s 23 points off of the bench. This Tuesday at 8 pm CST, the Thunder will look to even the series. With the way they played during Ibaka’s return last night, they may have turned the series around entirely. Momentum definitely rests with the Thunder as it stands currently. Will they maintain it? Find out this Tuesday night on TNT.


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