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Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka used his head to better defend Blake Griffin

The Thunder power forward had the top of his head lodged in Griffin's belly, taking the defensive tactic of crowding his man to an unforeseen level.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 25, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Serge Ibaka squared up and scrunched down into his defensive stance.

He was off to a good, fundamental start.

Then, in an attempt to shut off the space between himself and Blake Griffin, Ibaka moved in closer.

And closer.

Soon, the Thunder power forward had the top of his head lodged in Griffin's belly, taking the defensive tactic of crowding his man to an unforeseen level.

“I wanted to just try to be more aggressive and don't let him think and don't let him have space,” Ibaka said of his peculiar style Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers. “So I tried to get near him so he had to make some tough decisions.”

It was strange, but Ibaka said it was not a part of his strategy. The unconventional method, Ibaka explained before Friday's game at Sacramento, became magnified as part of a game within the game.

“One possession, he put his elbow on my head,” Ibaka said of Griffin. “I didn't want to (move) because I didn't want to get a foul. He was trying to get me to foul. I put my head in and he put his elbow on my head so I said, ‘If I want to raise (my head) right now, they will give me foul.' So I just put my head down like that and they still gave me fouls so it didn't make sense.”

That chess match continued for several trips, most of them won by Griffin, who scored a team-high 31 points in a losing effort.

“It's hard when you're getting fouls,” Ibaka said of playing sound defense. “Then you got to try to change your defense because you don't want to get in foul trouble, especially when the other team already knows you're in foul trouble. They will give him the ball every time.”

The unorthodox technique that ultimately played out in that Clippers game, though, did more than provide a few moments of comic relief. Ibaka's efforts displayed his continued development as a defender.

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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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