The Oklahoma City Thunder will try to make it a competitive series against the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night when Game 3 of the Western Conference finals shifts to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder badly need a lift and they may get one in the return of Serge Ibaka.
Ibaka, who missed the first two games and was expected to miss the entire postseason with a calf strain, improved significantly and will return.
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"The abundance of blood and therefore swelling in Serge's calf has reduced substantially and unexpectedly, allowing a level of movement and stability not thought possible after the initial diagnosis," OKC general manager Sam Presti said in a release earlier on Sunday before Ibaka's return was confirmed. "With this new information, and in an effort to keep his status current, we are now listing him as day-to-day with the understanding that there is a possibility for him to play in this series."
"I'm waiting what the doctor going to tell me and how my body going to feel," Ibaka said after Saturday's practice, acknowledging pain is more of a concern than further injury.
Oklahoma City desperately needs him.
The Spurs marched to a 2-0 series lead and have done so in convincing fashion. San Antonio has won the two games by an average of 26 points, thanks in large part to Wednesday's 112-77 drubbing in Game 2.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili made history on Wednesday night and led the Spurs to another win. San Antonio's Big 3 combined for 47 points and the trio passed Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper as the all-time winningest trio in NBA playoff history, winning their 111th postseason game together.
Parker scored a game-high 22 points, Duncan went for 14 with 12 rebounds and Ginobili added 11 points off the bench in the blowout, as the Spurs leave the comfy confines of AT&T Center for Oklahoma City.
In league history, 94 percent of teams to open a seven-game set 2-0 have gone on to advance.
The Spurs sadly know all about the six percent.
San Antonio held this exact margin in the 2012 Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City, only to lose the next four and watch the Thunder lose to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
"We know what we're walking into," Duncan said. "They're so much better at home. They're going to have a lot of days to let it all fester."
Duncan also racked up just under 29 minutes, passing Abdul-Jabbar for second most playoff minutes in league history in the process. Duncan is just 27 minutes back of Kobe Bryant's all-time mark of 8,641 and barring injury will pass him later in this series.
Danny Green made 7-of-10 from 3-point range for the Spurs, who won Monday's Game 1, 122-105. He finished with 21 and Boris Diaw was the other San Antonio player in double figures with 11.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook didn't do nearly enough to make up for Ibaka's absence. The MVP and his electric point guard netted just 15 points apiece on 16 and 24 shots, respectively. The other three OKC starters only scored four points between them.
"We're disappointed in our performance. We have to make a few adjustments and come back better," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "We will continue to figure things out as a group like we always have done and come back Sunday and play a much better basketball game."
The Thunder led 26-24 after the first quarter but were outscored 88-51 the rest of the way.
The poor play has led to some blowups on the floor for OKC. At the end of the first half, when the game started getting out of hand for the Thunder, prior to a timeout, Westbrook and Durant got into a heated exchange.
"I was just getting on Kevin about some stuff and he got on me right back," explained Westbrook. "And that's what teammates do. That's what leaders do. We get on each other, we come back and we talk about it, and then we come out like nothing ever happened."
The two have combined to shoot 35-for-80 from the field in the first two games. Westbrook has taken 10 more shots than the league MVP.
Game 4 will be Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.