But the disruptive perimeter defense was made a whole lot easier by the pogo stick that was erasing mistakes behind them.
Serge Ibaka finished the game with three blocks, all of which were spectacular. But even that belies the true impact of his interior defense on Thursday night. Ibaka’s looming presence and unique ability to fly out of nowhere for highlight spikes deterred the Spurs from a ton of paint opportunities.
“He probably altered 25 shots,” Westbrook said of Ibaka. “He may not even jump. But if you come to the lane and you see Serge, you gonna think twice.”
“Great shot-blocker, great defender,” Popovich said of Ibaka. “May be the best in the league at it, getting from one side to the other.”
It was the type of performance from the Thunder’s defense that had been missing at times since the All-Star break.
But it’s a 48-minute showcase they’ve proven to have in their repertoire.
And it’s certainly been there against the Spurs. The Thunder is now 4-0 this season and 10-2 in the past 12 games against the defending Western Conference champs.
Four more performances like this come late May and that title could flip back to OKC.