SAN ANTONIO –– It wasn’t just Serge Ibaka’s miracle trip to Lourdes or a visit to the gods of Thunder that turned around the entire look and feel of the Western Conference finals. OKC coach Scott Brooks also jumped guard Reggie Jackson into the starting lineup in place of Thabo Sefolosha and the offense has since been cooking.
While all of the official talk out of the Spurs’ camp the past two days has been about attitude and energy and determination, there is still speculation that Gregg Popovich could come back with a change of his own tonight for Game 5 (9 ET, TNT).
Would the Spurs consider benching Tiago Splitter and getting Boris Diaw’s outside shooting into the starting lineup to try to pull Ibaka way from the basket? Would they think about going small with Kawhi Leonard at power forward? And what of Cory Joseph and Matt Bonner, who came hustled off the bench in Game 4 to make the final score respectable?
“Ask him,” Manu Ginobili said, pointing to Popovich, when asked about lineup changes. “I’m not allowed to say anything.”
Popovich, of course, isn’t revealing anything, except to say, “we’re considering a couple of tweaks here and there, just in the plan. I don’t know exactly where that will be. But we saw some things that might warrant a little tweaking.”
Diaw told the media at Thursday’s shootaround that he was not starting. However, that means nothing.
Diaw did acknowledge that he was successful going against the Thunder’s small lineup in the first two games of the series.
“But since Ibaka came back, they don’t play small as much,” he said. “So we actually like it when they play small. It’s when they play big that we have a hard time the last couple of games to score inside. But whatever they give us we got to find a solution.”
Diaw said it makes sense to take advantage of his ability to score from the outside to possibly get Ibaka out of the low post, where he has disrupted and distracted the Spurs whenever they’ve gotten the ball into the paint.
“For sure,” he said. “Shooting from outside, he’s a guy that’s helping a lot so we got to try to keep him out of the paint.
“There are some open shots that we don’t take. There are also some contested shots that we shouldn’t take, should be more patient, move the ball a little more so we can be open. We have got to pass the ball more. Because it’s what we have been doing all year. So we have got to find a way to move the ball enough so we get open shots.”
Perhaps one good tweak deserves another.