OKLAHOMA CITY -- The return of Serge Ibaka from a calf injury helped Oklahoma City bury San Antonio 106-97 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday, leaving Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to resort to a little gallows humor during his post-game press conference.
Asked why Manu Ginobili had departed early to the locker room in the fourth quarter, Popovich cracked wise about the Thunder's over-conservative diagnosis for Ibaka.
"He's be fine, or he'll be out for the rest of the playoffs," Popovich joked, drawing laughter from the assembled media and causing himself to chuckle at his own joke. "You've still got to have some fun even if you lose. Come on, it's basketball. Yeah, we wanted to win, but I want to laugh too. Make sure [Thunder GM] Sammy [Presti] gets that."
Popovich and the Spurs initially expressed skepticism about Ibaka's status when the Thunder announced last week that their starting power forward was expected to miss the playoffs. After sitting out Games 1 and 2, Ibaka was upgraded to "day-to-day" on Friday, and he started Game 3 on Sunday. Popovich chided Presti over Ibaka's status earlier this week.
“I’m shocked, I’m so surprised,” Popovich deadpanned. “Like I told you from the beginning, I know Sammy. You knew he'd be back."
Presti was a Spurs executive prior to being hired by the SuperSonics, who later relocated to Oklahoma City and rebranded as the Thunder, in 2007.
Ibaka finished with 15 points (on 6-for-7 shooting), seven rebounds and four blocks while playing 30 minutes and making a bit impact on both sides of the ball.
As for Ginobili, he confirmed that his injury was neither new nor serious.
"I'm just sore on my left foot," he said. "It's been going on for awhile. There are some games that I'm worse, others that I'm okay. Don't be concerned, though, it's nothing new."
Ginobili scored a team-high 23 points (on 8-for-13 shooting) and dished four assists, hitting a season-high six three-pointers in a losing effort.
San Antonio now holds a 2-1 series lead over Oklahoma City. Game 4 is set for the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Tuesday.
Video via YouTube user cjzerovids