Kevin Durant was Kevin Durant. He was brilliant. This isn’t entirely unexpected, though, even when it’s exceptional.
What was shocking was the performance of the Thunder’s big men. Serge Ibaka finished the game a perfect 11-for-11 from the floor, one shy of the all-time NBA playoff record for most field goals without a miss in a playoff game. He added five rebounds and three blocked shots in nearly 41 minutes of action.
He was phenomenal for the Thunder, scoring on jumpers and dunks alike. The Spurs didn’t have any answer for him. It was almost painful to watch him go to work against a team that didn’t have any idea how to make him miss.
After the game, Popovich could only shake his head when asked about Ibaka, saying that if you put guys through a shooting drill, few would finish with that percentage. It was a welcomed sight for the Thunder who had been hoping that Ibaka would play himself into a groove. After being limited to just 21 minutes in the Thunder’s Game 1 loss, Ibaka has slowly found his rhythm playing against this Spurs team and is figuring out how to benefit his team on both ends of the floor.
He wasn’t the only one to provide an unexpected scoring boost for the Thunder. San Antonio wasn’t ready for Kendrick Perkins or Nick Collison either. Along with Ibaka, the trio finished the game shooting a blistering 22-for-25 from the floor to combine for 49 points. These are the same big men who had been virtually invisible up to this point.
While Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant were quiet through the first half, their big men kept them in front. Once the third quarter arrived, Durant came alive. In the fourth, with the score close, it was the Durant show and we all were able to watch his star shine brighter as the minutes ticked off the clock.
Heading back to San Antonio with the series knotted at 2-2, it’ll be interesting to see what the Spurs do in Game 5. After leaving DeJuan Blair on the bench for the first three games of the series, Gregg Popovich put him into the game to see if he could provide a spark. Blair wasn’t terrible in his nine minutes of burn, but he wasn’t the answer.
If Durant is going to go into closer mode in the fourth and you don’t have any answer for him —and this isn’t a Spurs problem, this is a problem for everyone in the NBA not on the Thunder’s payroll— you can’t let guys like Perkins, Ibaka and Collison bury you early.
The way this series is shaping up, it looks like this thing could go seven. After San Antonio dominated in the first two games, the Thunder have refused to cower and we just might get rewarded with three more glorious games between these two teams. We can hope, at least.