Thabo Sefolosha, the starting shooting guard submitted the best playoff game of his six year career when the Thunder needed it most.
On the verge of trailing an insurmountable lead in the Western Conference finals, Oklahoma City submitted a balanced and near-flawless performance.
All 12 played that made an appearance in Game 3 scored at least one point and other than 3-point shooting percentage, the Thunder held the advantage in every major statistical category to snap San Antonio’s 20-game win streak with a 102-82 victory Thursday night.
As as the series shifted back to Chesapeake Energy Arena, the role players elevated their game, especially Sefolosha.
The 28-year-old guard, the eldest member of Oklahoma City’s starting lineup, scored 19 points, including four made 3-point field goals, along with a playoff career-high six steals and six rebounds.
While Sefolosha was forcing the Spurs into mistakes, Oklahoma City continued to play under control, committing just seven turnovers in 48 minutes.
During the regular season, the Thunder led the league by turning the ball over 16.4 times per game. Since the playoffs began, it has reduced its turnovers to just 10.8 per game, the lowest among all 16 playoff teams.
In Game 2, the rest of the team outside of the star trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden combined for 23 points on 7-of-34 shooting and seven turnovers as it fell behind 0-2 in the series.
Last night, the role players submitted 55 points and just one turnover.
The scoring production was a necessity as Westbrook connected on only 5-of-15 field goal attempts, scoring 10 points and didn’t attempt a free throw for the first time all post season.
Instead of letting his poor shooting impact his game negatively, resulting in plenty of criticism last season, Westbrook found a way to stay engaged and provide an impact.
Aside from his lowest scoring output of the playoffs, Westbrook totaled nine assists, seven rebounds, fours steals, two blocks and committed just two turnovers.
Westbrook was a key part of a defensive effort that limited the San Antonio starters to half of its scoring total. The Spurs starting five combined for 33 points after averaging 65.5 points in the first two games.
The problem was Duncan wasn’t able to turn away Durant on a fast break, igniting the crowd early.
Durant once again led the team in scoring, pouring in a game-high 22 points along with six rebounds, five assists and a steal.
A 3-pointer from Sefolosha with just over 10 minuets remaining in the second quarter restored the Thunder’s lead to 29-27 an advantage it wouldn’t surrender for the rest of the game.
Harden scored the next seven for Oklahoma City, part of a 15 point, four rebound three assist performance and to put his team comfortably ahead.
Parker tried to launch a 3-pointer from 25-feet away just before the buzzer sounded for halftime, only Westbrook emphatically swatted the ball into the stands, preserving a 54-41 advantage for Oklahoma City.
The Spurs couldn’t find their usual offensive rhythm, shooting 39.5 percent from the field while committing 21 turnovers.
The only reason the 20 point margin wasn’t wide was because of San Antonio’s long range shooting.
Stephen Jackson scored 16 points, while knocking down 4-of-5 attempts from beyond the arc, part of an 11-of-26 shooting effort from 3-point range.
Manu Ginobili scored just eight points as San Antonio lost for the first time since April 11.
The Spurs are just of three teams in league history to win each of their first 10 playoff games.
No team in league history has ever comeback from a three game deficit in a playoff series, with the victory Thursday, the Thunder can become the 15th ever to win a set after dropping the first two contests.
San Antonio was already preparing for Game 4 as Duncan and Parker sat out the final 15 minutes with the game already out of reach.
Oklahoma City handed the Spurs their first loss of the playoffs, now it is hoping to send the series back to San Antonio all even with a repeat performance Saturday night.