Thabo Sefolosha

In a Western Conference finals filled with established stars, Thabo Sefolosha used a stretch of defensive excellence to turn the momentum in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s favor and stop a dominant seven-week run by the San Antonio Spurs.

Kevin Durant scored 22 points, Sefolosha set playoff career-bests with 19 points and six steals, and the Thunder snapped San Antonio’s 20-game winning streak by beating the Spurs 102-82 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night.

The Thunder’s fears of falling into a historically insurmountable 3-0 series deficit faded quickly as Sefolosha got four steals to power an 8-0 Oklahoma City run in the first 3 minutes and set the tone for San Antonio’s worst offensive outing of the season…

Coach Scott Brooks assigned him to clamp down on All-Star point guard Tony Parker, who had 34 points in Game 2…

Parker and Stephen Jackson led the Spurs with 16 points apiece. Tim Duncan had 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting, taking 11 of San Antonio’s first 25 shots as the offense went through the All-Star center instead of Parker…

Parker and Duncan didn’t play in the final 15 minutes, and Popovich pulled the plug after a series of three straight turnovers allowed the deficit to reach 23 points early in the fourth quarter.

– Reported by Jeff Latzke of the Associated Press

Led by Sefolosha’s game-high six, the Thunder registered 14 steals. That helped the Thunder force San Antonio into a series-high 21 turnovers, which led to 20 OKC points.

kendrick perkins

Brooks stuck with Perkins despite many calling for Perkins to sit more in this series. And Perkins came through for his coach, grabbing a game-high eight rebounds while blocking four shots. Perkins also helped limit Tim Duncan to 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting, which directly helped hold the Spurs to a series-low 24 points in the paint.

Brooks, however, reminded everyone that the series still is far from over.

“We’ve done nothing but won our home game, and we have a tough one Saturday night.”

– Reported by Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman

Give the Spurs credit for one thing. When they finally went down, they went down hard.

Thursday’s game was their most lopsided playoff defeat since a 103-81 loss to Dallas in the 2010 first round, a series the Spurs ultimately won.

Plagued by a playoff-high 21 turnovers, generating 20 OKC points, the Spurs fell in a 54-41 hole at halftime and never could recover.

With Sefolosha (six steals) patrolling the perimeter and Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins (three blocks apiece) defending the rim, the Spurs managed their fewest points since an 87-79 loss at Minnesota on Jan. 27.

The Spurs got 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting from Jackson, but little from more typical sources. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili combined for 19 points and missed all but six of their 20 attempts.

Duncan did block five shots, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time NBA postseason record (478).

“We have to give them credit,” Ginobili said. “They just smashed us.”

– Reported by Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News