Thunder notebook: Serge Ibaka, James Harden earning fourth-quarter minutes

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, Modified: December 22, 2009 at 12:13 am •  Published: December 22, 2009
Rookies Serge Ibaka and James Harden continue to be the two biggest surprises this season with their strong and steady play off the bench. Lately, they’ve been rewarded with the much desired duty of closing games down the stretch.

Harden played all 12 fourth-quarter minutes in Saturday’s 95-90 road loss to Houston. Ibaka played all but 1 minute, 40 seconds in the final period. In Wednesday’s 109-98 home win over Detroit, Harden played the entire fourth quarter while Ibaka played all but the period’s final 2 minutes, 39 seconds.

"Serge is really coming along and improving every game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "He’s doing that because he’s working hard. He deserves the success that he’s having. He’s committed to getting better. And James is improving. He’s growing, his confidence level is getting higher and he continues to make good plays.”

Harden is averaging 11.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists in December. Ibaka is averaging 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds this month.

"They’re getting more confident, and they’ve been helping us out a lot, so I’m happy for them,” said Kevin Durant.

One growing concern for the Thunder lately has been its inconsistent effort on the glass. Oklahoma City has given up at least 11 offensive rebounds in each of the past six games and has yielded an average of 14.3 offensive boards over that span, nearly three more than the Thunder’s season average.

"Our perimeter players have to step in there and help get rebounds,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "Our bigs are doing a good job of battling and fighting. It’s not all their responsibility to get the rebound...I think everybody has to have the attitude, ‘I can get one or two more rebounds a game.

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