Serge Ibaka Returns in Fashion
Paging the San Antonio Spurs.
It was almost over, in my opinion. The Spurs had drubbed the Oklahoma City Thunder -- in San Antonio -- to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.
The Thunder looked outclassed, outmanned, and seemingly erratic at times. They solely relied on Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to put up astronomical numbers against a stingy Spurs defense.
Maybe I underestimated the Thunder, but that's because they didn't possess their defensive catalyst, Serge Ibaka.
He was orignally ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs with a strained left calf. However, by some miracle, Ibaka made his remarkable return to the hardwood for Game 3. His impact was so overwhelmingly evident that I continuously thought, "How are the Spurs not prepared for this?"
Considering that San Antonio is such a cerebral team -- not to mention that they questioned the time span of Ibaka's injury -- I thought for sure that the Spurs would be able to stay composed, weather the emotional storm, and easily attack Ibaka in the paint like they had done previously in Games 1 and 2.
That didn't happen at all like I predicted.
Ibaka's return propelled the Thunder right back into this series, and they regained their swagger in the process. He contributed both offensively and defensively to the tune of 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks. He also caused several rhythmic disruptions on the defensive end, as he normally does.
After Oklahoma City's 106-97 win, it was apparent that the Thunder weren't going to roll over and quit. Ibaka created havoc for which the Spurs weren't prepared. They shredded the OKC defense in the first two games, putting up huge numbers offensively and managing to dominate the paint, often effortlessly. But Ibaka won't let that happen, and unless something drastic occurss, the Spurs will have to adjust to the 6-10 defensive maniac in the middle.
With Ibaka's return, it seems to me that this series has just begun. Stay tuned, because after spotting San Antonio a 2-0 lead, the Thunder -- just as in 2012 -- are ready to mount another comeback.