(Reuters) – The Oklahoma City Thunder, buoyed by the return of Serge Ibaka from injury, recovered from two demoralising road losses to beat the San Antonio Spurs 106-97 in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday.
The Spurs lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 but the Thunder at least breathed some new life into their season, which was in danger of ending with a whimper.
Power forward Ibaka, who missed the first two games with a left calf strain, scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor in nearly 30 minutes of action. He also grabbed seven rebounds and played strong defense, blocking four shots.
“I tried to give my team mates some energy in defense and offense,” the 24-year-old from the Republic of the Congo told TNT TV.
“I think I did pretty well. Also, my team mates too, we did a great job to make them take some tough shots.”
Coach Scott Brooks praised Ibaka: “Serge gave us a big lift, not only on the defensive end but the offensive end,” Brooks told reporters.
“We obviously missed him the last two games but that’s part of sport.
You have to deal with the injuries. We bounced back tonight.”
The Thunder, who lost the first two games of the series by a combined 52 points in San Antonio, looked like a different team as they played with energy and more than a touch of skill in front of a raucous home crowd.