The last time he snuck 16 shots into one game? Thabo Sefolosha had to stop and think about.”Summer time with the [Swiss] national team,” he finally decided. “It’s been a long time.” The last time he had such a big game?
No one had to pause. Never. Not in six seasons in the NBA. And certainly not considering that the Thunder were facing a possible 0-3 deficit in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals, with the most-anticipated season in team history on the line.
Sefolosha, after averaging 4.5 points in the first two games of this series in San Antonio, after 4.0 the entire playoffs, after 4.8 in the regular season as the starting shooting guard, had 19 on Thursday, more than any player on either team except Kevin Durant’s 22. Sefolosha made four 3-pointers in 10 tries, the most all season in both categories. He hadn’t even taken as many as 10 shots in a game — from anywhere — all season.
That wasn’t what paved the way to the season-saving 102-82 Thunder win at Chesapeake Energy Arena, though. That wasn’t what prompted Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to say afterward that, “I don’t know how I can change what Sefolosha’s going to do,” and when addressing what adjustment he could make to counter Sefolosha considered out loud how, “I can ask [coach] Scotty [Brooks] not to play him.”
Sefolosha’s defensive lockdown on point guard Tony Parker disrupted a Spurs offense that 48 hours earlier seemed like it could not be disrupted. It was Sefolosha’s defense that made the difference in the game.
In the past, the Thunder occasionally had used the 6-foot-7 Sefolosha on the 6-foot-2 Parker without the same effect. On Thursday, though, the impact could not have been more profound, considering the magnitude of the night, when going down 0-3 would have meant certain elimination one step before the Finals for the second year in a row.
Parker still had 16 points, tied with Stephen Jackson for most among the Spurs. But the All-Star point guard, who enjoyed an MVP-caliber season that has carried into the playoffs, could not find open spots with the same ease as before. He had fewer assists (four) than turnovers (five). He took only 12 shots.