It took less than a minute of game action on Sunday for the increasingly contentious Serge Ibaka-Blake Griffin rivalry to produce another interesting chapter.
As Ibaka was driven back by a powerful Griffin post-up on the Clippers’ second possession, he ran into the oncoming Kendrick Perkins.
Perkins’ force pushed Ibaka back toward Griffin, leading a flailing Ibaka to nail Griffin with a backhand to the groin area. Griffin went down in obvious pain, but there was no foul called. Postgame, Ibaka contended that it was accidental.
“No punch thrown, man,” Ibaka said. “Both players, we just like to play physical. If you see the replay, it wasn’t a punch thrown. It was like in traffic, and one of my teammates push me from the back, then I try to fall and he was up already.”
Griffin said he didn’t know whether the shot was accidental or not: “I can’t get into his head. I’m not going to try.”
Last season, on this same court, Ibaka nailed Griffin with a low-blow, which earned him a $25,000 fine. But that one was clearly intentional. This one didn’t seem to be.
But regardless, NBA officials plan to review this latest play.
“I don’t worry about all that,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, noting that he hadn’t seen the replay. “I love the physical play. I think they should just keep playing physical, let them play like that. If a guy throws a punch, the league will take care of it.”
COLLISON PLAYS KEY ROLE
The unsung hero of Sunday’s game was Darren Collison, the Clippers’ reserve guard who scored 12 of his 18 points in that wild fourth quarter run.
Collison had been relatively ineffective series, going 6-of-18 shooting in the first three games, while being exploited by Russell Westbrook post-ups on the other end.
But he was a major factor in his 23 minutes on Sunday. His 18 points and seven rebounds were both playoff-highs.
“Darren Collison was amazing today,” Chris Paul said. “…You just got to love a guy like that who plays with so much heart and never gives up. Game ball goes to Darren Collison.”
And a podium game, too, with Collison among those to speak in a press conference format to the media afterward, something typically reserved for stars.
IBAKA’S LIMITED LOOKS
Despite his amazing efficiency in the postseason (62-of-99 shooting, 63 percent), Ibaka continues to get limited offensive opportunities.
On Sunday, he got a playoff-low five shots, making two of them – both threes – and scored only eight points. This came a game after he scored 20 points on only 10 shots, making nine.
STAT OF THE GAME
During a stretch in the fourth quarter, the Clippers scored on 18 of 19 possessions.
STAT OF THE GAME II
The Clippers outrebounded the Thunder 45-43 on Sunday. It was the first time in 11 playoff games OKC has been outrebounded.
Game 5 comes on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. Tip is at 8:30 Oklahoma time on TNT. Game 6 will be back in Los Angeles on Thursday night.