After their poor start to the series and having looking dead and buried going into game three, Oklahoma City Thunder gave a response to show they are not ready to leave the play-offs yet winning at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday night 106-97 against the San Antonio Spurs.
A huge benefit for Thunder was the return of centre Serge Ibaka as the Spaniard was a missing link for the first two games, and to see the return of the 24-year-old having been out since May 15th sparked a huge roar from the home fans.
Ibaka managed 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks featuring for a comfortable 29 minutes, while Kevin Durant found his form again and recorded 25 points, and the small forward spoke to ESPN after the tie and believed the centre is an ideal player you want alongside you in big games.
"When you talk about a teammate, that's everything you want in a teammate. I gained so much more respect for Serge for sacrificing himself for the team."
There was speculation that Ibaka wasn't going to return until game four, but with his passion for the sport, Serge put his body on the line in order to keep Thunder this is play-off fight.
Gregg Popovich meanwhile will be frustrated that his side have slipped up after two dominant wins at home, as now they are in a difficult position as another win for Scott Brooks' side would tie the series heading back to San Antonio.
After their defeat, the Spurs' head coach spoke to ESPN after the match and declared his disappointment in his team for having no control in the game.
"I was very disappointed that we didn't come out with more of a foot-in-the-neck sort of attitude. They killed us on the boards, they beat us in 50-50 balls and that's very disappointing to me.''
Considering the bad finish the visitors had, they started on the front foot winning the first quarter 29-28.
Manu Giboili recorded nine points in five minutes with both Danny Green and Tim Duncan both adding six to the board.
For the hosts Ibaka led the way scoring eight points with Durant putting six on the board.
The second quarter changed in favour of the hosts, as Brooks' team recorded 29 points to San Antonio's 24.
Russell Westbrook scored 12 points hitting three of his seven attempted field goals with Durant adding seven.
For Popovich's men, Ginobili led the charge again hitting 11 points, but heading in at half-time the hosts had a four point lead at 57-54.
The hosts kept up their momentum in the third by securing a 26-23 win and opening up their lead to seven points.
Westbrook scored ten with Durant adding eight considering the small forward had a poor quarter only scoring one of his seven attempted field goals.
At this point the final quarter was up to the hosts to close out the game and head into game four with a win under their belt, and this was accomplished through the Thunder players winning the quarter 23-21.
Durant, Reggie Jackson and Westbrook all managed four points, while Popovich rested some of his key players leading into game four, Cory Joseph was their main scorer converting five in six minutes.
Now Thunder have a foothold in the series, game four will be at the Chesapeake Energy Arena and it will give the hosts a chance to tie the series. On the other side of the court, Popovich knows that his team need a much needed improvement considering they rarely caused problems for Brooks' team.
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