Changing Of The Guard For Thunder?

By Randy Renner

Nothing is official yet and may not be until an hour or so before tonight’s Game 3 tipoff against the San Antonio Spurs but a lineup change is likely coming for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And no I’m not talking about Serge Ibaka.

Though judging  by what he said after shootaround today Ibaka certainlyt plans on playing, “it’s my decision,” he said earlier today. “It’s my decision more than coach or doctor.”

So I’d say Ibaka will be out there. The other widely expected lineup change for the Thunder tonight is putting Thabo Sefolosha on the bench and putting Caron Butler back with the starting five.

The same thing happened to spark some needed offense in Game 6 of the Memphis series and some offense is definitely needed in Game 3 of this series with the Spurs where three of OKC’s starters have combined for nine points in the first two games, none of those nine coming from Sefolosha.

“We still have time to think about that,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said after Saturday’s practice when asked about a possible lineup change.

When asked if he needs more production out of his other three starters (Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins) Brooks refused to get into specifics with any of them.

“I think we need production out of our group. That’s the main focus,” Brooks said. “It’s unfair to label Nick and Perk and Thabo that they need to score more. As a group, we need to play better for longer stretches against one of the best teams. We’re not asking for guys all of a sudden to be 15-point scorers and block shots. We’re just asking the group to play better, and we have to figure out ways to do that.”

Of course 15 points in one game for that group would more than double the per-game production we’ve seen from them so far in this series.

Perk, often maligned for his offensive game, has actually scored seven of those nine points. Collison is out of his usual element as he fills in for Ibaka so rightly or wrongly it’s Sefolosha who is being targeted and not just for his offensive woes. Thabo is just 11-for-47 on 3-pointers since The All-Star Break. Spurs shooting guard Danny Green, who’s been guarded by Sefolosha for much of the first two games is 11-for-15..in just those two games.

Before Ibaka indicated he would play tonight some wondered if Brooks might go all in with changes and also start either Steven Adams at center or power forward, or Perry Jones at power forward. Neither seems likely now though Adams will get a lot of playing time tonight and so might Jones. If Butler gets the start, Jeremy Lamb may be the guy who comes off the bench to relieve him after going 6-for-8 in Game 2.

We should have at least a couple of those answers when Brooks addresses the media just before 6 o’clock.