Spurctacular Start: San Antonio Takes Game 1 In Comeback Win

After three quarters of back-and-forth ball, the Spurs pulled away to down the Thunder and take Game 1, 101-98.

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NBA Playoffs: Was Serge Ibaka's Absence The Reason Oklahoma City Lost?

The Oklahoma City Thunder looked like they might be on their way to stealing homecourt advantage with a Game 1 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night before starting to struggle on the defensive end down the stretch. There were quite a few opinions for why this happened, but it seemed one of the main concerns from the coaches on their couches was the Thunder's lack of Serge Ibaka in the fourth quarter.

Ibaka has established himself as one of the NBA's top shot blockers, but ended up playing less than 22 minutes on Sunday night. It was an interesting move from Thunder coach Scott Brooks considering Ibaka started the game, and unlike most games, he was able to stay out of foul trouble while he was on the court.

Considering the Thunder seemed to be better with Ibaka on the court, it's tough to say why he spent the majority of the game on the bench. The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry stood up for Brooks' decision in his column Monday morning, though, noting that Ibaka on the bench came out of necessity.

Everybody seems to be up in arms about Serge Ibaka not playing in the fourth quarter. Can't say I had a big problem with it. The writing was on the wall. You knew going into this series that the Thunder would play a good amount of small ball with Kevin Durant at the 4. That meant one of the bigs, Ibaka, Collison or Kendrick Perkins, would have to sit. It's been that way all season, and for the most part all season Thunder coach Scott Brooks has relied more on Collison or Perk in those situations. Brooks went with his gut and it didn't work. But by no means can you say pin this loss on that one decision.

Mayberry is right that Ibaka's presence likely would not have changed the outcome on Sunday night, but he later pointed out that it definitely would have made sense to have him in the game.

Having said that, Ibaka's presence as a shot-blocker certainly would have helped. Once Manu Ginobili got rolling, Ibaka could have protected the paint better, for sure. But here's the problem with thinking the adjustment was that simple. Had Brooks stuck Ibaka in there, he would have had to defend Duncan first and foremost. That could have led to the future Hall of Famer taking the torch from Ginobili and taking his turn lightening up the Thunder. Secondly, the Spurs, and Ginobili in particular, is savvy enough to read and react to Ibaka at the rim. Had Ibaka been there for weak side help, Ginobili easily could have dumped it off to Duncan or kicked it out to shooters once he broke down the defense. All what ifs, sure. But highly plausible ones. So, again, plugging in Ibaka wouldn't have necessarily won this game.

Considering Manu Ginobili was absolutely brilliant on Sunday night, it probably would have made sense to insert Ibaka just to see if he could have altered the course of the game when the Spurs started rolling late. As Mayberry notes, however, that likely would have just led to someone else -- likely Tim Duncan -- picking up the slack as Ibaka tried to help contain the world's greatest left-handed Argentinian.

Either way, it'll be interesting to see what Brooks does with Ibaka for the remainder of the series.

For more on the Spurs, visit Pounding The Rock. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City.

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Manu Ginobili Was Brilliant, Spurred San Antonio To Victory Over Thunder

The sixth man battle was certainly expected to be one of the keys in the Western Conference Finals considering Manu Ginobili and James Harden are two of the best players off the bench in the NBA. The battle didn't disappoint in Game 1 on Sunday night, as Ginobili turned back the clock to take over the game and lead San Antonio to victory.

Ginobili played 34 minutes for the Spurs, scoring a team-high 26 points on 14 attempts from the field as the catalyst for the San Antonio offense. It was one of his best games of the season, and, as Matthew Tynan pointed out over at SB Nation's Pounding the Rock, it came at exactly the right time.

Each facet of his game was on display in Game 1, but it was the scoring that turned out to be the most crucial element. Ginobili has made a career out of timely plays. Without them there would most likely be fewer banners hanging in the AT&T Center rafters. But here he was again as we'll always picture him, twisting and turning his way to the hoop, lining up and uncoiling on that funky-looking jump shot. The word ‘competitor' is most likely overused at times, but Manu defines the term.

Down 71-62 heading into the fourth quarter, Ginobili took the game over at a time when his team desperately needed him to do so. His 11 points in the final frame helped pull the Spurs out of a cold spell the No. 1 seed just couldn't seem to shake. San Antonio shot less than 39 percent from the floor through the first three quarters, but when the home team finally broke loose there was little Oklahoma City could do to stop it.

It was vintage Ginobili. Although the Thunder will likely try to limit his scoring output for the remainder of the series, he's shown Harden that he's not quite ready to pass the torch as the NBA's best sixth man. Whether Ginobili is putting up a plethora of points or driving and dishing, it's clear that he'll be an immensely important piece of the Spurs' offense this series.

For more on the Spurs, visit Pounding The Rock. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City.

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Russell Westbrook Wears More Funny Clothing, Half The Flags Of NATO

Russell Westbrook's campaign against fashion continues.

Here's what the Thunder guard was wearing after Sunday night's game, which the Thunder lost even after a late barrage of threes by James Harden. It's quite a get-up.

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This is from the Twitter account @youbigdummy, by the way.

From the top:

1. Some amber-colored tortoise-shelled glasses

2. iPod headphones

3. A shirt with flags. Not all are national flags, but luckily, I had a very lonely middle school experience and I'm very good at recognizing flags, so, here goes: Scotland, Italy, Costa Rica, Malta, Costa Rica. And more. I think they're mainly nautical flags, like the type ships will hang from their sails to show where they're from.

4. Brown-ish pants.

5. A European carry-all (a.k.a. a purse)

6. Bright, bright green sneakers.

Yikes. This is not really helpful, because oh my goodness, what in the name of all that is holy is he wearing?

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In-Game Adversity Brings Out The Spurs' Absolute Best

The Spurs always look amazing, but they are their most impressive when they get into a hole and methodically, calmly take over, as they did in Game 1 against the Thunder.

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7 Important Questions About The Spurs Vs. Thunder Series

As we prepare for a matchup between the two best teams left in the playoffs, we explore seven questions that will decide the outcome.

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How The Spurs Can Vanquish The Thunder

The Spurs haven't lost in 46 days, but haven't faced a challenge like a best-of-seven series against the Thunder. How can San Antonio reign supreme?

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How Do The Thunder Beat The Spurs?

It won't be easy to defeat the red-hot Spurs, but if Durant and Westbrook have a big series and the Thunder can play solid straight-up defense, Oklahoma City has a chance.

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