The Oklahoma City Thunder finally made their Western Conference Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs interesting last night in game three with a dominating 102-82 win. It was the first signs of life that the Spurs might not roll in a sweep and fans can now hope again in OKC that the Thunder will triumph in the end. Most of that credit falls on the shoulders of an unlikely hero for the Thunder.
Yes, Kevin Durant scored 22 points. Russell Westbrook also made some outstanding plays for the Thunder. James Harden has his moments in every game. But the player that everyone is talking about this morning is Thabo Sefolosha, the Thunder defensive ace who came up big in every aspect of the word.
"(Sefolosha) was phenomenal tonight," Durant said after the game. "He was so active on the defensive end. He got a lot of deflections and got us some easy points in transition. They've been leaving him open on the three ball. He took ten of them tonight. We believe in him, he's confident shooting that jumpshot."
He hit four of those three-point shots on his way to 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 steals to go with 0 turnovers. Zero. In short, he was effective and efficient all night on both sides of the court while hardly ever serving as a liability on any single play.
"We came to play, the whole team and it worked out for us," Sefolosha said. "But my teammates did a great job finding me and I was reading them. I think I played pretty well defensively and that got me going offensively as well."
Head coach Scott Brooks was also praising not only Sefolosha but the entire team's defensive effort on the night. Against a team with a 20-game winning streak through the NBA Playoffs, a 20-point victory is a decisive statement.
"I thought we played great defense from the start," Brooks said. "Everybody was engaged. Everybody was in the stands and our hands were active. We contested shots. We rebounded the basketball."
OKC is still down 2-1 in the series, so they have their work cut out for them. Kendrick Perkins knows this and was ready to focus on the reality of the bigger picture even minutes after the win.
"This win is over with," Perkins said. "You can tell guys were pretty locked in right after the win. There wasn't anything being said, no high-fiving because we still have a long way. We have a lot of work to do."