OKLAHOMA CITY – Power forward Serge Ibaka scored 15 points in a dramatic return from what was thought to be a season-ending left-calf strain to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs 106-97 on Sunday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
Russell Westbrook had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Kevin Durant added 25 points and 10 rebounds to help the Thunder cut the Spurs’ lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.
Ibaka, who suffered the injury May 15 against the Los Angeles Clippers, started after missing the first two games of this series. Thunder officials had said he likely would miss the rest of the playoffs, but they changed course Friday.
“Obviously Serge came in and gave us a big lift, not only on the defensive end but the offensive end,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Ibaka, who also contributed seven rebounds and four blocks.
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Manu Ginobili scored 23 points and Tim Duncan added 16 for the Spurs.
Game 4 is Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
“I was very disappointed that we didn’t come out with more of a foot-in-the-neck sort of attitude,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “They killed us on the boards (52-36), they beat us in 50-50 balls and that’s very disappointing to me.”