#1 Thunder centre von vv1122365 24.01.2019 02:51

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The San Antonio Spurs never believed Serge Ibaka was out for the Western Conference finals, even after the Thunder said they expected him to miss the rest of the playoffs with a calf injury. Looks like the Spurs might have been on to something. The Thunder said Friday that their defensive standout now is day-to-day after his strained left calf showed improved movement and stability and a significant decrease in swelling. The Thunder have missed Ibaka badly as San Antonio has raced to a 2-0 lead in the series, and his possible return gives the Thunder hope as they prepare for Game 3 on Sunday in Oklahoma City. "His progress in the last several days has been surprising," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. "I dont think any of us thought wed be standing here talking about this. Were grateful that we are." Well, maybe no one with the Thunder expected it. The Spurs certainly did. "We knew he would be back, and thats good," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody would wish that on anybody to miss a playoff. Weve had guys miss playoffs before. Its obviously a downer. If he gets back in -- and Im sure he will, as Ive said from the beginning -- I think its great." Ibaka was injured in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers, a Western Conference semifinals series-clinching win on May 15. He is averaging 12.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in the playoffs while shooting 62 per cent from the field. Presti did not say if Ibaka would be available for Game 3, just that he could not be ruled out. Presti said he felt it best to be forthcoming with the change in the situation. "It would be convenient to not provide the information, and if he were ever healthy enough to play in a game, to release that an hour before the game," he said. "But in this case, we dont think that was the way to handle it, because previously, we had deemed him out. And we cant deem him out." Ibaka, a 6-foot-10 forward, led the league in blocked shots during the regular season and erased many of Oklahoma Citys defensive mistakes. Without having to deal with Oklahoma Citys primary rim protector, San Antonio scored 66 points in the paint on 67 per cent shooting in a 122-105 win in Game 1. The Spurs followed up with 54 points in the paint on 66 per cent shooting in a 112-77 blowout in Game 2. Ibaka also provides balance for Oklahoma Citys offence with his mid-range jumper and an ability to finish close to the hoop when defences focus on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. "Big difference," Spurs guard Danny Green said. "Obviously, one of the best defensive players in the league. Alters everything around the basket, rebounds, and also, of course, he can knock down shots. So youve got to respect him. Hopefully, if he does come back hes not as fresh, hes a little rusty." San Antonio said it will not make adjustments based on the news. "Were going to try to do the same thing," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "Its not like were going to change the game plan for him. For sure, hes going to give them another big body that can be a presence in the paint, block shots and make some jumpers, but our idea will be the same." Presti said Oklahoma Citys medical staff would like to see Ibaka go through game-like conditions before allowing him to return. So far, he has done low-impact training -- light drills and light shooting. Conditioning could be an issue and even if he returns its unclear how much he would play. "Were still focusing on trying to beat the Spurs without him playing," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That has not changed. I know hes listed as day-to-day, but he is out until Im told differently." Thunder centre Kendrick Perkins said Ibaka could not have erased all the defensive mistakes the Thunder made in Game 2. The Spurs shot 50 per cent from the field and made 9 of 23 3-pointers. 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