Ibaka, Jackson Both Expected To Start Again

By Randy Renner

Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka said he wasn't "feeling any worse," after Monday's practice than he did before Sunday night's game and he considered that good news.

Ibaka and his teammates didn't do very much at Monday's practice, mostly they watched game film and put up some shots so for the most part there wasn't a lot of physical activity.

Ibaka said yesterday he anticipates playing tonight and plans to "try to do better than last game."

That doesn't surprise Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich who kinda figured all along Ibaka would find a way to get back on the floor from his injury. Coach Pop had high praise for the man who has, for now, started to turn the series around.

"I think he's a special player and a special person," Popovich said after the Spurs Monday practice. "The way he handles himself, the class that he exudes, I think he's the best defensive player in the league, but I think he's been overlooked to some degree in that regard.  But he also does what he does at the offensive end.  I think he's one of the most gifted players in our league because he's a dual player.  He does it at both ends of the court.  But he's also a fine man, so that's a pretty great combination."

You can also expect backup point guard Reggie Jackson to be back in the starting lineup at shooting guard after scoring 15 points Sunday night. Jackson replaced Thabo Sefolosha who hadn't scored a point in the first two games of the series on 0-for-9 shooting.

"It's just a testament to Thabo being able to step back for the team," Jackson said. But it's also a testament to Jackson for being able to step up for the team once again and step into the starting lineup.

Jackson of course started while Russell Westbrook was out with his knee injury and Jackson has played some alongside Westbrook but he'd never started a game with Russ and Kevin Durant.

"We're trying to figure some things out," Jackson said, "just trying to get comfortable with each other, knowing that we have three playmakers all playing at the same time."

And that has now forced the Spurs to figure some things out too. It was way to easy for them in Games 1 & 2, Game 3 was an attention getter.

"It made sense for them.  They needed to shake things up," Spurs sixth man Manu Ginobili said. "Plus they come back from Ibaka, so I think they needed to see something different, and I guess it worked.  They played a good game, and we'll see how the Xs and Os thing goes from now on."

The Thunder has made their adjustment and now the Spurs may as well. But as we've seen from the Thunder on other occasions sometimes the best adjustment is simply to play better.

"We understand that if we don't bring our A game, if we don't play our best game, we're not going to win here," Ginobili stressed. "Hopefully that lesson was learned Sunday."

We'll find out tonight.


Randy RennerComment