It took Scott Brooks three games to understand what Greg Popovich did in three minutes about this series, but the change in OKC's approach was enough to breathe life into the Western Conference Finals, and force San Antonio to make their own adjustments on Saturday.
The Thunder stuck stubbornly with a small lineup that featured three wings on the court at all times, switched on screens, played passing lanes instead of passers, placed 6'7" Thabo Sefolosha on Tony Parker, and used energy and the crowd to fuel unselfish team offense that featured five Thunder players with double digit scoring. They even got in Kendrick Perkins' ear and Perk responded by staring down announcing crews, running around the court like a frisky colt (his 8 rebounds eclipsed his combined total in Games 1 and 2), and he even notched a one-on-one rejection of a Tony Parker jump shot.
Thabo Sefolosha was the Thunder MVP with 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 steals. The defensive stopper dominated game flow and hit enough shots on offense to prevent the Spurs D from cheating. The Spurs had 21 turnovers (TP, 5 in 28 minutes) and despite their track record of erasing substantial deficits as recently as the Clipper series, Popovich conceded the game in the beginning of the 4th quarter by sitting Duncan and Parker the rest of the way.
Popovich read game flow and elected to fight another day. It wasn't happening.
The discouraging development for the Spurs is that once the Thunder took care of Tony Parker, OKC elected for team defense over defending individuals in the Spurs offense. The Thunder coaching staff also appear to have figured out that the Spurs big men are more skillful than scoreful and that matching the Spurs position by position is a fool's errand.
If that holds, we have a series. But Popovich may have a few tricks up his sleeve in Game 4.