By Sekou Smith, NBA.com
VIDEO: Serge Ibaka’s surprise return from injury changes the Western Conference semifinals
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — By Any Means Necessary.
That is what it takes to survive and advance in these NBA playoffs. Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks knew as much heading into Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs.
So did Serge Ibaka and Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson and the rest of the Thunder.
It was Ibaka, though, who served as the true game changer in this game and perhaps this series.
We’ll know more in another 48 hours …
Thunder get 51 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists combined from the MVP Kevin Durant and #ForceOfNature Russell Westbrook. But the game ball tonight goes to Ibaka, who has 48 hours to rest, relax and regenerate. The Thunder need another 30 minutes like they got from him Sunday night in Game 4, which is already a candidate for Game of the Year.
Rewind the tape to 2012 and ask yourself is this the same script or just one game?
Serge was huge. But the energy and effort up and down the roster was completely different for the Thunder from the start. #Game4IsTheBigone
Standing O for Ibaka, and well-deserved, as he comes out with 3:17 to play and the Thunder up 104-84. (15 pts, 7 rebs and 4 blocks.) Durant had to tell Brooks to get Ibaka out of the game. Somebody better buy Ibaka dinner tonight, too, as he just saved the Thunder’s bacon in this series.
Caron Butler is on the Framily plan tonight in OKC, long distance included!
Is for the six 3-pointers that Manu has knocked down, so far, tonight. #ManuBeingManu
Thanks for making us all feel old! #GetOffMyLawn
This performance from Serge, is this a one-night, one-game wonder or is this what the Thunder (and Spurs) can expect for the remainder of the series?
Ibaka is everywhere on defense. He’s contesting shots on the perimeter, swatting them at the rim and even getting dunked on trying to contest a Kawhi Leonard lefty jam.
VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard finishes with the nasty lefty jam over Serge Ibaka
Gotta give the Serge Protector credit, he’s putting forth an all-world effort under the circumstances.
Your move Kevin Hart!
I had no idea there was a name for it …
Yes We Can!
VIDEO: The Serge Protector!
A four-point lead might not be enough. Spurs didn’t even play well and they are down four at the break #CodeRed for the Thunder for the remainder of the night …
How much difference can one man make? #SergeIbaka
Manu and RussWest playing a wicked game of H.O.R.S.E from beyond the 3-point line to finish half.
As much as I hate to admit it, Reckless Westbrook has a better chance of helping the Thunder win this game as Relentless Westbrook! #oneinthesame
Thunder need to watch the Pacers-Heat series. Finishing quarters is the difference between a true contender and a pretender …
If it were only a matter of athleticism …
And who is supposed tackle this task this time around?
The next time I stub a toe playing ball or slightly pull a muscle that is supposed to keep me out of the action for a significant amount of time, I want whatever treatment Ibaka had for his calf injury. He looks like normal out there, impacting the game in plenty of ways and showing no signs of letting up.
All that hype and the first quarter ends the same way Games 1 and 2 did without Ibaka …
I get RussWest being frustrated. I even get him popping off to an official. What I don’t get is him being surprised that another official would take offense (bad call, no call or what have you)!
Derek Fisher just had to top Nick Collison and get some stitches of his own. He’ll finish this night with a nice knot upside his head. #wegotableeder
Best news folks in Oklahoma City have heard all week!
VIDEO: Serge Ibaka’s hot start