Heading into Game 3 of the Western Conference finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, the biggest storyline was the return of Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka, who had been expected to miss the remainder of the postseason with a left calf strain suffered during the final game of Oklahoma City's second-round win over the Los Angeles Clippers, but who recovered quicker than anticipated — or, at least, than some anticipated — and was back in Scott Brooks' starting lineup on Sunday night.
Over the course of the first half, though, two other storylines emerged — the scattered play of point guards Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, both of whom looked out-of-sorts on the offensive end; and the brilliance of longtime Spurs super-sub Manu Ginobili, whose legendarily trick-or-treat play was firmly in the latter category.
As the two teams neared intermission, though, Westbrook's trademark aggressiveness began to bear fruit, while Ginobili kept dropping bombs, leading to a fantastic bit of late-second-quarter offensive excitement as we headed into half:
This sequence was actually preceded by another just like it, with Manu draining a triple at the 35-second mark to cut the Thunder's lead to one point, followed by Westbrook answering with a pull-up 3 just five seconds later that ensured that Oklahoma City would get a two-for-one opportunity to close the half. While Manu answered with his second long ball, Westbrook was able to make the two-for-one count in a big way, drilling it from deep — 36 feet away, according to the official play-by-play — to send the Thunder into halftime with a 57-53 lead in a Game 3 that they desperately need to avoid falling into a dreaded 0-3 hole against Gregg Popovich and company.
High stakes, high drama, and highly exciting play from two of the most electric performers in these Western Conference finals.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, feel free to check it out elsewhere, thanks to ZombieProphet.
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