OKC Thunder: Serge Ibaka has moved past magical 11-for-11 shooting night in Western Conference Finals

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER — June 2, 2012 was a magical night for Serge Ibaka and the Thunder. Ibaka went 11-for-11 shooting that night to lead the Thunder to a Game 4 win over San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 13, 2012
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photo - NBA BASKETBALL / CELEBRATION: Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9) and Russell Westbrook (0) celebrate during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA playoffs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Saturday, June 2, 2012. Oklahoma CIty won 109-103. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
NBA BASKETBALL / CELEBRATION: Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9) and Russell Westbrook (0) celebrate during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA playoffs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Saturday, June 2, 2012. Oklahoma CIty won 109-103. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Seven of Ibaka's field goals came with the margin standing at seven points or less, and six of his baskets were from 15 feet and beyond.

Marv Albert and Reggie Miller grew more mesmerized by the minute while calling the game for TNT, Albert putting emphasis on each syllable Serge Ibaka's name as only he can.

Most impressive was how Ibaka scooted to perfection.

He set screens, he moved without the ball, he flashed to the passer with fluid cuts and he floated into open spaces. On each trip, Ibaka made sure he was ready to receive a pass, keeping his hands high above his waist and his feet set when positioned to catch and shoot.

Ibaka shockingly doesn't consider that June night as his best offensive performance. He didn't name another that tops his list. The only other that comes close is Nov. 15, 2010, when Ibaka scored regular season career high 22 points at Utah, making nine of 13 shots.

“The good thing about it,” Ibaka said, “is it was the right moment, a moment where my team needed it; a big moment, a conference final.”

In typical Thunder fashion, no one is blowing the performance out of proportion. While still amazed at what Ibaka did that night, everyone who witnessed it is quick to point out that it was just one game.

“I don't put a lot into it,” Brooks said. “I like to (judge) players (on) consistency. I'd rather have a player who's solid all year long instead of great games and bad games, great games and bad games.”

Ibaka strives for that same steadiness, which is why he's over that one magical night. He also knows his role as the fourth offensive option (at best) on the Thunder and understands that he rarely will get as many looks as he did in that Game 4.

“It's not going to happen every night,” Ibaka said. “The thing I can control is keep working hard and playing my game. When the time will come, it will come.”

But that's what made June 2 so special.

It was a moment when potential turned into production and when 41 minutes left everyone salivating over what exactly is in store for the future.

“To me the sky's the limit for Serge,” said Perkins. “I feel like all he's got to do is just continue to work and continue to try to get better.

“If he gets it in his mind that he wants to be one of the top power forwards in the league, it's not hard for him.”

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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THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION

A look back at how Serge Ibaka delivered an 11-for-11 shooting performance in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

1-1: After Kevin Durant got double-teamed on the right baseline, he fired a pass to Kendrick Perkins just below the foul line. Perkins immediately made the extra pass to a cutting Ibaka on the left baseline for a double-clutching layup. Thunder 7, Spurs 13.

2-2: A routine pick-and-pop with James Harden left Ibaka wide open for a mid-range jumper from the top of the key. Thunder 28, Spurs 28.

3-3: Thabo Sefolosha drew the defense by looking to attack, leaving Ibaka open above the foul line for a mid-range jumper. Thunder 32, Spurs 28.

4-4: Derek Fisher blew by his man on the left wing and drew the defense. When he did, Ibaka cut down the middle of the lane, caught a pass from Fisher and threw down a two-hand dunk. Thunder 38, Spurs 37.

5-5: Ibaka trailed Kevin Durant on a high ball screen, putting him in perfect position to scoop up a loose ball after Khawi Leonard stripped Durant on a drive. Ibaka finished the play with a one-hand dunk. Thunder 45, Spurs 35.

6-6: A drive by Durant drew Tim Duncan off Ibaka, leaving him free in the left corner for a jump shot. Thunder 47, Spurs 38.

7-7: This was Ibaka's signature play from his perfect night. Initially spotting up in the left corner as an outlet for Durant, Ibaka received the pass from Durant and instead of settling for another jumper blew by Duncan. As he did, Ibaka cradled the ball while swooping across the lane before throwing down a monster one-handed dunk. Thunder 59, Spurs 48.

8-8: Ibaka spot up on the left elbow for a catch-and-shoot off a feed from Russell Westbrook. Thunder 68, Spurs 53.

9-9: When Durant began to post up Stephen Jackson, all five Spurs defenders locked in on him. Once they did, Ibaka dove to the open area at the foul line, took a pass from Durant and buried a jumper over a late-contesting Duncan. Thunder 70, Spurs 57.

10-10: Ibaka spot up in the left corner and nailed a jumper off a drive-and-kick from James Harden. Thunder 77, Spurs 71.

11-11: Ibaka's easiest bucket of the night was his last, a simple tip-in off a miss by Harden. Thunder 86, Spurs 79.

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