The Oklahoma City Thunder entered the Western Conference Finals without its best defensive big man and starting power forward, Serge Ibaka. Ibaka suffered a calf strain in OKC’s series against the Clippers and was ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs.
OKC took a pounding in the paint by the Spurs in the first two games of the series and Ibaka’s presence was sorely missed. His ability to block and alter shots is what drives the Thunder’s defense and gives them fast break opportunities, and now it was gone.
With the Thunder down 0-2 and the series moving to OKC, Ibaka miraculously returned to give his team a physical and emotional boost. The big man from the Congo finished the game with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots in thirty minutes of play. The Thunder beat the Spurs 106-97 to stay alive in the Western Conference Finals.
Ibaka credits lots of ice packs and a higher power for getting him back on the court.
"I believe in God, and I believe in miracles, and I believe that everything is possible," Ibaka told USA TODAY Sports.
“Yeah, it was a very special game -- a very special game. It showed me that God loves me. He really heard my prayer, because normally this kind of injury to get back to play you need to wait like maybe four weeks. This took me 10 days. It's a miracle, man believe me."
Momentum is now on the side of Oklahoma City and we have a series again. The usually unflappable San Antonio Spurs looked old and out of sorts in game 3. San Antonio couldn’t score as efficiently as they normally do and had trouble taking care of the ball.
Despite leading the series 2-1 and having home court advantage the Spurs might be in trouble. The last time these two teams met in the Western Conference Finals San Antonio bowed out to the Thunder in six games. The youth and high-powered scoring ability of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant is too much to handle for any team, even the battle tested Spurs. With OKC now at full-strength they could be looking at their second trip to the NBA Finals in three seasons.
First thing first is evening up the series, and the Spurs will have something to say about that.
Game 4 takes place Tuesday on TNT.