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OKC Thunder: Serge Ibaka can change the momentum back to Thunder

In the first three games of this series, Ibaka was sensational. But the last two contests, Ibaka has regressed. Oklahoma City needs him to be sensational again to put away Rockets.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 2, 2013

Where Ibaka works best in the offense is as a mid-range shooter, as evidenced by 55 percent of his field-goal attempts during the regular season coming on jump shots.

Additionally, 75 percent of Ibaka's field goals in the regular season were assisted, illustrating how rare it is that he creates his own shot. Utah center Al Jefferson, by comparison, was assisted on 55 percent of his field goals this season.

Most troubling is Ibaka's main assist man is on crutches. Russell Westbrook was responsible for 50 percent of Ibaka's assisted field goals. With that source of offense no longer available, the Thunder must figure out how Ibaka can get going so that he still can put pressure on the Rockets defense.

In some ways, it's up to Ibaka.

Ibaka's athleticism, energy and hustle can lead to offensive rebounds and put-back opportunities from the paint. Those just happened to be two areas the Thunder currently are losing in this series. Houston has out-rebounded OKC 10.8 to 9.8 on average on the offensive end while outscoring the Thunder 43.2-36.4 in second-chance points. Oklahoma City has a narrow edge in second-chance points, currently winning 77-73.

But perhaps Game 5 revealed a breakthrough.

The Thunder began running Ibaka in pick-and-rolls with Reggie Jackson. It led to two fourth-quarter dunks and left the Rockets re-evaluating.

Suddenly, no longer could Houston simple deny Durant at all cost. The Rockets also couldn't leave Derek Fisher in the corner to help.

If the Thunder can continue to carry out that set, it could turn into a pivotal pick-your-poison equation for the Rockets — one that slowly should help the Thunder regain its most sizable advantage.

“There's parts of our offense I'd like to continue to focus on, and that's a play that can help us get to the paint and create opportunities for points around the basket,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I think Serge and Reggie is a good combination. They've had some good chemistry the last couple of weeks with that.”

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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