Just as the Oklahoma City Thunder appeared to be dead in the water, the improbable return of Serge Ibaka ignited the team and led to a 106-97 win over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3.
All of a sudden, the Spurs' series lead is down to one game.
Ibaka, who scored 15 points while recording seven rebounds and four blocks in Game 3, frustrated Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, according to his press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com.
Said Popovich, "I was very disappointed that we didn't come out with more of a foot-in-the-neck sort of attitude. They killed us on the boards, they beat us in 50-50 balls and that's very disappointing to me."
With Ibaka back in the fold, this series just became very interesting.
Let's take a look at the updated odds for Game 4 and predict how the ensuing contest could potentially unfold.
Spurs vs. Thunder Game 4
Series: Spurs lead 2-1
When: Tuesday, May 27
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Odds: Thunder -2.5 (via OddsShark.com)
It's amazing what the presence of one player can do for an entire team.
With Ibaka back on the court, the once-listless Thunder were suddenly invigorated on both ends of the court in Game 3.
Kevin Durant recorded the game's only double-double, accumulating 25 points and 10 boards. Russell Westbook scored a game-high 26 points, and the Thunder out-rebounded the Spurs 52-36.
San Antonio was no longer dominant in the paint, as Tim Duncan connected on just seven of his 17 attempts for 16 points. The game could have been a massive blowout if it weren't for Manu Ginobili's six threes and 23 points off the bench.
Ibaka had this to say about his return, via a tweet from Sam Amick of USA Today:
The tides turned in a big way, as only two Spurs starters accumulated double-digit points, while four Thunder starters scored at least 15.
We've seen this situation before.
In 2012, Oklahoma City came back from two games down against the Spurs to move on to the NBA Finals. Surely, that must be lingering in the back of everyone's minds.
ESPN's Mike Greenberg put things simply with this tweet:
Still, we can't count out what has been a very polished and consistent Spurs team. This is still the same squad that demolished the Thunder in the first two games of the series.
The experience and veteran leadership on San Antonio's roster will play a huge role going forward, as the team will certainly look to revamp its game plan following the return of Ibaka.
San Antonio is a fantastic road team, holding a 30-11 away record this season. However, the energy in Oklahoma City is simply electric right now.
Expect Ibaka to continue to be a disruptive force in the paint on the defensive end as the crowd in Chesapeake Energy Arena erupts following another Thunder victory.
Thunder 110, Spurs 104
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