Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 6/1/12
OKLAHOMA CITY Now everyone can just exhale a bit. Probably should at this point. Just sit back. Take it easy. Don't forget, this is the same Oklahoma City team that swept past Dallas in the first round of the playoffs and then knocked out the Lakers right after. They just hadn't shown it yet. Thursday, the Thunder did, shaking free from a two-game funk where they lost a lead in the fourth quarter in the first game and then lost their way in the second one. Now, after a 102-82 win over the previously spotless San Antonio, everyone but spurned rapper Lil Wayne, who was reportedly denied access to the game, feels pretty good about themselves heading into a Saturday Game 4. So, Wayne didn't get in, said he wasn't allowed to sit on the floor at Chesapeake Arena, but everyone else who did was wearing blue instead of just feeling that way. Because when you undo the best team in the NBA and turn a one-sided answer into a series that now begs questions, the Thunder gained more than just confidence. They made the right adjustments. And now they've made it a series because coach Scott Brooks made moves, and those moves worked. Oklahoma City is down 2-1 because they played the kind of defense which looked unattainable just 48 hours after getting run over in San Antonio where they gave up 120 points in the Game 2 loss. Brooks still desperately clung to the idea, which he has verbalized throughout the season, that his team is a defensive one. Thursday, the Thunder made Brooks look correct. San Antonio had just 60 points through three quarters, finished up shooting only 39.5 percent and were totally different than the team that had the Thunder scrambling to cover a parade of open jump shooters in the game-two fiasco. And while Brooks will say the only adjustment was the fact the Thunder just played better, we know better. It was more than that. Sure, Oklahoma City looked and acted differently which can be seen on a two-dimensional box score, but give Brooks credit for sticking with Kendrick Perkins at center and not sticking with Russell Westbrook on Tony Parker. A game after Perkins looked slow and mismatched, he responded with three blocks, four points and five rebounds in the first half. A game after Parker went off for 34 points, Thabo Sefolosha absolutely changed the direction of this series. Not only did Sefolosha dominate defensively, getting six rebounds and six steals, he scored 19 points, only the second time in 44 playoff games he's gone for more than 10. He played 36 minutes and held Parker to 16 points. "It was just one of those games," Sefolosha said. "We came to play and it worked out for us. I think I played pretty well defensively and that got me going offensively as well." Figure this was the kind of game where Brooks would have done anything and everything. Play Kevin Durant 48 minutes if he had to. Play Russell Westbrook until he can't spring to the hoop. But no one figured Brooks would push all the right buttons and not even have to have his stars on the floor in the final minutes. Durant finished with 22 points and Westbrook had 10 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, but it was Sefolosha's 36 minutes and a stat line of consistency that made Brooks like the smartest guy in what turned out to be a really loud room. "Thabo, as we all know, is one of the best defenders in the game," Brooks said. "He did a great job of staying active and pursuing. It was nothing that Russell did the last two games. I thought he did a good job, but the biggest adjustment is that we played better. That was the biggest thing." Well, big enough that it's the Spurs who have to counter now. Game 4 is up next and heading back to San Antonio tied up at 2-2 isn't out of the question. It's the Spurs who are coming off a loss for the first time in the postseason and seemingly the first time since David Robinson retired. It's the Spurs who were winners of 20 in a row. And now it's the Thunder who have the momentum, whether or not you believe it was a case of them playing well or whether San Antonio just crumbled. "They played like it was a close-out game," Spurs coach Greg Popovich said. "They did all those things better. They beat us pretty good." "We'll try to watch film and try to see what we can do better," Parker added. "But they definitely played with a lot more energy and a lot more passion than us tonight." San Antonio had 21 turnovers and looked closer to the team that lost to Memphis in the first round a year ago than the one that swept past Utah, the Clippers and then the Thunder through two games. "We never thought these guys had an advantage over us even though we lost a few," Durant said. "We weren't worried about previous games. We played with a sense of urgency." That's why and how the Thunder avoided an 0-3 hole. That's also the reason it will be the Spurs who will need to make the adjustments come Saturday.
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