Thunder: The Serge Ibaka dilemma
Serge Ibaka creates a dilemma for Scotty Brooks in this series against the Grizzlies. He’s obviously too talented not to play. But Ibaka obviously can’t guard Zach Randolph.
The Thunder’s problems with Randolph continued Sunday, in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal. Randolph had 34 points and 10 rebounds. Randolph did to Oklahoma City what he had done to OKC in the regular season. It was hoped the addition of centers Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed would have an adverse affect on Randolph. But no.
Ibaka must play. Sunday, he was the only Thunder besides Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook who scored more than five points. Ibaka had 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots. So Brooks can’t bench Ibaka for long; he played 37 minutes-plus.
But in the 29 minutes when Ibaka and Randolph shared the court, Randolph had 28 points.
Nick Collison appeared to do the best job on Randolph; in the nine minutes Collison and Randolph shared the court, Randolph had six points. Collison and Ibaka played together four minutes or so, so not all of the Randolph damage can be directly linked to one or the other Thunder power forward.
But now you see the dilemma. Collison’s defense on Randolph would come in handy, but Ibaka does so much more, he needs to play. One solution, Brooks might try an Ibaka/Collison more often. Put Ibaka on Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. Kendrick Perkins’ defense was supposed to help curtail Memphis’ paint points, but Gasol hurt the Thunder with 15-foot jumpers as much as anything.
So who knows? But the Randolph dilemma comes down to this. The guy, Ibaka, who needs to cover Randolph can’t stop him, but Ibaka still needs to play.
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