May 31, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) looks to pass as San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) defends during the second half in game three of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City won 102-82. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE
Along with Lil Wayne, the Spurs that won 20 games in a row were apparently not permitted in to Chesapeake Energy Arena Thursday night. It was inevitable, but the Spurs finally had a bad night. Well actually, that’s not entirely true. The Spurs have sleepwalked through a few games in these past 50 days, but still found a way to win. However, they had no answer for the Thunder inside Loud City.
It was like a trailer for a new Space Jam installment, because a group of aliens harnessing the Big Three’s powers in a basketball is the only explanation I have for the debacle that was Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Sure the Spurs made it somewhat nicer at the end, but a 20-point loss is a 20-point loss.
Tony Parker was not on his game, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook made their presence known Thursday. Nothing came easy for Parker, who finished 6-12 from the field adding 16 points, and after a while it felt like Popovich handed the keys over to Gary Neal, so that Parker did not risk injury.
Though, Oklahoma City made a huge statement with their post game. After two games of being pushed around and criticized, the Thunder big men played with a lot of fire and attitude. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka went to work in the paint, and shut down the Spurs’ bigs, outscoring San Antonio 44-24 in the paint.
It was a bit of shame the Thunder had to blow out the Spurs on a record-setting night for Tim Duncan, though. The Big Fundamental surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading blocker in the postseason with his 477th playoff block ironically coming against one of the best blockers in the NBA, Serge Ibaka. Certainly, a great feat for a guy who does not get enough love for his defensive abilities, and he’s shown you do not have to send the ball in to the stands for it to qualify as a block.
Besides Duncan’s accomplishment, there was not much cheer for San Antonio. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green combined for five points, showing their youth and inexperience. Also, I think it is time we stop complaining about Matt Bonner getting snubbed from the three-point competition each year. The Red Rocket’s slump does not look like it will be coming to an end any time soon, which makes me wonder why DeJuan Blair isn’t getting more minutes.
May 31, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) takes a shot against San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the first half in game three of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE
With Popovich throwing in the towel early, Blair finally saw the floor for more than a minute. In 9:47, Blair went 5-7 from the floor, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds. Not bad, but then again, he was a man who has started all season amongst a group of players just happy to take off their warm-ups for once. Maybe Blair sees more action Saturday, but there is no telling with Gregg Popovich.
Also, there’s no telling with Stephen Jackson, anymore. In the midst of a humiliating loss, Jackson decided he would troll the San Antonio fans hard by turning it on in Oklahoma City. Captain Jack hit 4-5 from the perimeter, and matched Parker’s team-high 16 points. He obviously still has his stroke, and the Spurs could have used a Steve Kerr-like performance from Jackson. The Thunder would have none of that, though, and made Jackson’s 16 buckets irrelevant by the end of the night.
The Thunder really showed they had heart and would not become victim to the dreaded sweep. However, as many people would like to believe “it is a series now,” the Thunder are still down 1-2 and without home court advantage. San Antonio has four chances to win two games that will send them to the NBA Finals, which for this team, should be no problem. Hopefully this was just one bad night out of 50, and not the last of the Spurs’ magical run.
San Antonio will find out for the first time since April 12 if they can respond to a bad loss. Remember, the Lakers beat the snot out of San Antonio on April 11, so this ugly loss could be the wake-up call the Spurs needed to get back on track. 21 turnovers is unacceptable, and come Saturday, Parker and Co. better be ready to get back to work and take control of this series.