Sports News

Thunder F Ibaka to start Game 3

File-This May 11, 2014, file photo shows Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, of Congo, gesturing after hitting a three-point shot in the first half of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles. Ibaka could play against San Antonio in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals after taking part in the team
File-This May 11, 2014, file photo shows Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, of Congo, gesturing after hitting a three-point shot in the first half of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles. Ibaka could play against San Antonio in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals after taking part in the team's shootaround. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
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By Cliff Brunt, The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY - Thunder coach Scott Brooks said forward Serge Ibaka will start Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday night.

Ibaka has missed the first two games of the series against the San Antonio Spurs with a left calf strain. The Thunder had said he likely would miss the rest of the playoffs, but changed course Friday.

Ibaka said Sunday morning the pain started to subside in the past three days. He took part in the team's Sunday morning shootaround and later got positive feedback from the team's medical staff.

With Ibaka, the league's leading shot blocker, the Thunder were one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Without him, San Antonio shot at least 50 per cent in the first two games and won them by a combined 52 points. The Spurs have said all along that they expected him to return during the series.

Ibaka was glad to be out on the practice court in the shootaround, and he appreciates the fact that playing is even a possibility.

"It feels great," he said. "The first time the doctors told me I would not be able to play in the playoffs, I cried. It was something that I wasn't really looking for. I always enjoy playing with my teammates and playing basketball."

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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