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May 22, 2014

Fightin' Words: Can the Thunder turn it around, again?

CHICKASHA —

Through classroom after classroom of Texas history lessons, the Alamo was always presented to us as an example of the spirit to fight on even when all the odds were against you. 

So if the regular season beatings by the Thunder were San Antonio's basketball version of that famous historic event, Wednesday night was their San Jacinto.

Not to say the Spurs caught Oklahoma City sleeping in the 112-77 victory, as Sam Houston's army did when they routed the Mexicans for both pride and vengeance. Their strategy was actually more Alamo-style in that they simply had more guns. San Antonio shot 50 percent 

It's no surprise when the Thunder's bigs don't carry the team, but imagine that scenario without the only one of them who ever could. It's been clear in these first games that Serge Ibaka is a very missed man. 

In the four games Oklahoma City won against the Spurs in the regular season, Ibaka averaged 14 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4 blocks. He recorded double-doubles in three of the four contests, displaying his necessity on both sides of the ball.

The most crucial part of Ibaka's play is the defense, and that is especially true against a San Antonio offense that is firing on all four cylinders. It was as if they sucked all the points out of OKC on Wednesday, turned them around and fired everything and some back.

What put the Thunder to the sword in such a violent fashion was the fringe players. Danny Green's lights-out performance from long range gave him 21 points, while Boris Diaw accrued a silent 11 alongside Manu Ginobili.

In this regard, Oklahoma City doesn't have much of an answer when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't hitting their shots. And it's not like they didn't get any looks. Westbrook had 24 shots, more than his 17.2 per game average, against the Spurs on Wednesday, possibly contributing to a lack of a late surge.

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