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Game 1 waters were rough without Serge Ibaka

Ibaka is missing from the Western Conference Finals, courtesy of a strained calf injury, and the Thunder discovered what life is like without their shot-blocking ace. Rough. Very rough.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 20, 2014


photo - Oklahoma City's Derek Fisher (6) defends against San Antonio's Tim Duncan (21) during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Monday, May 19, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Derek Fisher (6) defends against San Antonio's Tim Duncan (21) during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Monday, May 19, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Jackson admitted that the Thunder might have gotten “a little lazy having somebody that is an eraser back there like that, altering so many shots. Tonight comes down to individual pride, individual defense and too many paint points.”

Let’s be fair to the Spurs. They carved up the Thunder in other ways than taking advantage of Ibaka’s void. San Antonio had three turnovers at halftime. The Thunder didn’t commit a defensive foul the first 10 minutes of the game. Clearly, the Thunder’s defense was lax in ways that have nothing to do with Ibaka.

The Thunder didn’t contain the Spur dribblers. Didn’t react well to the San Antonio passing. The Thunder seemed to play in quicksand the first half. Until Monday night, though, the Thunder had the Ibaka safety net.

“We’re a no-excuse team,” Scotty Brooks said. “Serge is out. He’s not coming back. We have to play better. No matter who we have out there.”

The Thunder found some defensive legs in the third quarter. Kendrick Perkins bodied up Duncan. The Thunder kept Parker and Co. from a layup drill. The Spurs made just five of 17 shots in the third quarter, Russell Westbrook got aggressive offensively in the open court and, amazingly, the Thunder twice took a one-point lead.

But the levee broke. The Spurs got more easy baskets. They broke open the game in the second half same as they did in the first half.

Last May, we learned what the Thunder offense is like without Westbrook. It wasn’t pretty.

Monday night, we learned what the Thunder defense is like without Ibaka. It was even less so.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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