Power forward Serge Ibaka’s possible return to the postseason might be just the sign of life the Oklahoma City Thunder need as they hope to avoid a 3-0 series hole against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
A calf injury, and the likelihood of re-aggravation, was supposed to keep the Thunder’s leading rebounder out for the rest of the playoffs but he’s reportedly said he’s “50 percent” better after participating in the team shoot around Sunday.
There’s no question Oklahoma City can use Ibaka following their Game Two 35-point loss to the Spurs. San Antonio feasted inside with Ibaka out, totaling 54 points in the paint with guard Tony Parker scoring a game-high 22 points and shooter Danny Green going 7-for-10 from three point range.
The Spurs used a 34-18 second quarter and 33-18 third to pull away, but they’ve had the Thunder in a 2-0 hole before. In 2012, the Thunder rallied to win four straight and reach the Finals, but they’ll need Ibaka’s presence in the middle for a repeat performance.
So far Nick Collison has filled in for Ibaka in the starting lineup, totaling two points and five rebounds in two games and struggling against the Spurs frontline of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.
Duncan’s once again proven a revelation with 27 points and seven rebounds in Game One, and 14 points and 12 boards in Game Two. It was the fourth double-double of the playoffs for Duncan, who’s trying to take the Spurs to back-to-back Finals appearances for the first time in his career.
Splitter’s been most helpful altering shots in the series with four blocks in two games, doubling his output from the previous two series combined.
The Thunder will also need forward Kevin Durant to forget his woeful 6-for-16 shooting, and the same for guard Russell Westbrook who shot 7-for-24 in Game Two. Both tallied 15 points apiece, and OKC especially struggled from three-point range, shooting 2-for-20.
Start Time: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: TNT
Live Online Stream Info: A live online stream is available TNT Overtime here
Betting Odds: OKC -2
Over/Under: 208 points
Prediction: OKC over San Antonio, 104-97