The Miami Heat just opened up a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The San Antonio Spurs aim to do the very same on Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The only question is, was Serge Ibaka’s game three return the turning point of the Western Conference Finals, or is it simply too little, too late?
Ibaka showed no ill effects of a calf strain that kept him out of the first two games, while his debut in the Western Conference Finals led to 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.
Needless to say, that potential edge everyone was talking about was most certainly there. Not only did Ibaka provide timely offense, but the intimidator factor was alive and well down low on the defensive end. That equated to just 10 points for Kawhi Leonard and a mere combined 10 points out of Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter. Ibaka’s presence also helped keep Tony Parker at bay when it came to lane penetration, and undoubtedly contributed to his cold 4-of-13 shooting night.
The return of Ibaka also clearly opened things up for the Thunder’s two big stars, as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both dropped in at least 25 points.
Suddenly we were seeing the Thunder again. Their offense was much more cohesive, they were playing with visible confidence and their defense had some actual life.
Was this the impact of Ibaka in 29 minutes, or was it just OKC being OKC at home?
Game four will inevitably clear that picture up, but the odds are leaning toward it being a mixed bag. With that said, it’s a good mixed bag for the Thunder, as Ibaka is still ready to go again and game four is at home.
San Antonio will surely be itching to keep pace with the Heat in a bid to make it back for a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. OKC just might have something to say about it, first.
Pick: Thunder 104, Spurs 101