OKC Thunder: Serge Ibaka benefits from Kevin Durant's willingness to pass the basketball

For the first time in his career, Ibaka has topped 20 points in three straight games. It's largely been a credit to the rapidly improving two-man game with Durant.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 20, 2014


photo - Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) high fives teammate Kevin Durant (35) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) high fives teammate Kevin Durant (35) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Kevin Durant was asked Monday what he likes most about how he's performed lately.

He could have chosen anything.

He went with it all.

“I'm being more comfortable,” he said. “Trying to do different things; whether it's scoring, whether it's rebounding, being a facilitator. I'm just going out there and really just having fun, to be honest.”

Within that, Durant's ability to keep Serge Ibaka involved offensively could be the most significant. It's emerged as a primary key to survival for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the absence of Russell Westbrook.

After sputtering to a 5-5 record after Westbrook was lost two days after Christmas, the Thunder has won three straight entering Tuesday's game against Portland. The winning streak has coincided with a spike in scoring by Ibaka and, to a degree, better overall balance by OKC.

For the first time in his career, Ibaka has topped 20 points in three straight games. Over that span, he's averaging 20.7 points on an eye-popping 73 percent shooting, while adding 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots.

It's largely been a credit to the rapidly improving two-man game with Durant, who has become much more of a willing and effecting passer.

Durant has taking control by orchestrating the offense and making plays out of pick-and-rolls. He's set up Ibaka for midrange jumpers, uncontested looks at the rim, as well as opportunities in transition.

“He's one of the guys you really need to make a decision (on),” Ibaka said of Durant. “Are you going help, or are you going to stay with him. I just read the game. He's been doing a great job this year trying to find the (open) guy and passing the ball.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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