Oklahoma City, OK (SportsNetwork.com) - Serge Ibaka sat on the Oklahoma City Thunder bench for the final few minutes of Game 3.
It wasn't because he was hurt.
Ibaka had 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks and the Thunder defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 106-97, on Sunday night to get right back into the Western Conference finals.
Ibaka was initially expected to miss the remainder of the season with a left calf strain he suffered against the Los Angeles Clippers on May 15, but his status was upgraded to day-to-day on Friday.
"I gained so much more respect for Serge for sacrificing himself for the team. Regardless of what happened tonight, that's something you want beside you," Thunder forward Kevin Durant said.
Ibaka hit his first five shots from the floor and provided the defensive spark Oklahoma City had been lacking during the first two games of this set.
"Serge obviously gave us an emotional and a playing boost," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "Defensively, he blocks and alters shots."
Without Ibaka, the Thunder allowed the Spurs to shoot at least 50 percent in the first two tilts and San Antonio won them by a combined 52 points.
The Spurs shot just 39.6 percent (36-of-91) from the floor in Game 3.
OKC has been in this position before. It fell behind San Antonio 2-0 in the 2012 West Finals before rallying to win the next four games.
Game 4 is Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
Russell Westbrook finished 8-of-19 from the field after missing seven of his first eight shots, netting 26 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. Durant added 25 points and 10 boards for the Thunder, who held a commanding 52-36 advantage on the glass.
Manu Ginobili nailed six 3-pointers and scored 23 points for San Antonio, which has dropped eight straight to the Thunder in OKC, including the postseason.
Westbrook and Durant combined to score 21 straight Thunder points during the latter stages of the second quarter and during the early portion of the third.
It wasn't until the third, though, when the hosts began to pull away.
Two Kendrick Perkins free throws at the 8:36 mark of the third capped a 10-2 burst and gave the Thunder a 67-57 cushion. His bonus shots provided OKC its first points not supplied by either Durant or Westbrook since a Reggie Jackson floater with 4:01 to play in the second.
Ginobili nailed a left wing trey to pull San Antonio within 75-71 with 2:46 to go in the period, but the Thunder extended the margin to 83-76 at the conclusion of the third and then put the game away early in the fourth.
Jackson drove in for a layup, Durant hit a runner and Caron Butler potted a right corner three to vault the hosts to a 90-76 advantage.
OKC led by as many as 20 down the stretch and the Spurs never whittled the gap into single digits until the waning moments of the contest.
Earlier, Ibaka gave the Thunder a lift from the get-go, knocking down his first four field goals in the first four-plus minutes and staking them to a 15-12 edge.
"He started the game hot, he made a few jumpers and we had to adjust," Ginobili said of Ibaka.
San Antonio, though, withstood the OKC charge and led 29-28 following a quarter of play.
Westbrook nailed a pair of pull-up triples in the final 30 seconds of the half, including one at the buzzer to give the Thunder a 57-53 cushion heading into the break.
OKC shot 45.7 percent (37-of-81) from the floor and went 26-of-31 (83.9 percent) from the foul line, compared to a 15-of-16 effort (93.8 percent) from the charity stripe for San Antonio ... Jackson replaced Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup.