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.
It was a performance for the ages, yet now it's a night that Serge Ibaka would rather forget.
“I know it was an incredible performance,” Ibaka sheepishly admits. “But I don't think it's good for me to keep thinking about…I think about it more as a game we won. It was big for us.”
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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.
It was June 2, the night Ibaka put on a perfect shooting display in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Thunder's power forward stunned the Spurs by scoring a playoff career-high 26 points on 11 of 11 shooting.
“We needed every basket,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “If he was 10-for-11, we might not have won.”
The Thunder clinched a 109-103 win that night, evening the series at two games apiece and gaining enough momentum to knock out the Spurs and set up an NBA Finals showdown with Miami.
Ibaka finished one made field goal shy of tying the NBA postseason record for most field goals made without a miss. Larry McNeill went 12-for-12 in 1975. Scott Wedman in 1985 went 11-for-11, the only other player in NBA playoff history to do so.
“I didn't know (during the game),” Ibaka said of his flawless accuracy. “I just kept shooting. I had confidence. I was hot. And my teammates…kept passing the ball and I kept shooting.”
And shooting…and shooting.
“And he made tough shots,” Brooks said. “He made shots with guys in his face. He made jump shots. He made inside shots. They weren't all gimmes.”
You could see Ibaka grow more confident as he canned each shot.
He pointed to Kendrick Perkins after the first basket, thanking his teammate for the assist.
He clapped his hands with a more determined look while backpedaling on defense after his third make, his second straight jumper.
He flashed his patented “Air Congo” wings after his fourth bucket, a dunk set up by Derek Fisher.
He left his follow through hanging just a tad longer after knocking down his sixth field goal, a baseline jumper set up by Kevin Durant.
By the time he popped the front of his jersey, enlarging the “THUNDER” emblazoned across his chest following his eighth straight field goal, Ibaka had long passed confident. He was unconscious.
“He was relaxed and settled in and did what we needed him to do,” Perkins said. “But I thought we got him the ball early, which got him some easy buckets and got him going which will help anybody's confidence.”
Ibaka had one field goal in the opening quarter, five in the second, three in the third and two in the fourth. Nine of his 11 field goals came off assists — three from Durant, two from James Harden and one apiece from Fisher, Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook.
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