The Oklahoma Thunder rebounded from a pair of lopsided losses in the National Basketball Association’s Western Conference finals, beating the San Antonio Spurs 106-97 as Serge Ibaka returned from a calf injury the team expected to sideline him for the postseason.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 51 points last night at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, while Ibaka, the NBA’s leading shotblocker, added 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Without Ibaka in the lineup, the Thunder had lost the first two games of the series in San Antonio by a combined 52 points.
The Thunder initially said on May 16 that the 6-foot-10 Ibaka had a calf strain that would force him to miss the rest of the playoffs. Swelling in Ibaka’s calf reduced “substantially and unexpectedly,” Thunder General Manager Sam Presti said two days ago, allowing the team to welcome back a player who’s led the NBA in blocked shots four years in a row.
Ibaka, who missed only one of his seven shots and helped limit the Spurs to a postseason-low 39.6 percent shooting, received a standing ovation from the home crowd as he left the game with just over three minutes remaining.
“I think I did pretty well,” Ibaka said in a televised interview. “Not just me, but my teammates too. We did a good job to make them take some tough shots. I just wanted to give my teammates some energy, on defense and offense, try to make my presence in the paint and try to control every rebound.”
Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is scheduled for tomorrow in Oklahoma City. The Spurs had a six-game winning streak in the Western Conference finals snapped last night.
The Miami Heat host the Indiana Pacers tonight in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. The defending NBA-champion Heat lead the best-of-seven series two-games-to-one after winning the past two games.
Oklahoma City used a 13-2 scoring run during the second quarter to take the lead for good last night, with Durant scoring seven points in the surge. The Thunder scored 19 of the first 27 points during the fourth quarter to extend their advantage to 20 points.
Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 23 points off the bench and Tim Duncan added 16 points and eight rebounds. Duncan and fellow starters Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Danny Green combined to miss 35 of 53 shots.