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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

In his fourth season, Ibaka has worked hard to round out his defensive skills and become more than just a dominant weak side shot blocker. He's now complementing his help defense with improved positional defense. According to Synergy stats, Ibaka is allowing just 0.58 points per possession on isolation plays, which ranks him 23rd in the NBA. Opponents are shooting just 25.4 percent against him in those isolations. Last year, Ibaka yielded 0.77 points per possession, ranking 147th, and allowing 38.2 percent in isolations.

So far, Ibaka's growth has been seen against some of the top offensive power forwards in the league, such as Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki and Zach Randolph. He's crowded each better this year than in past seasons and helped the Thunder limit their effectiveness.

“We want to crowd the basketball,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We want to get into the basketball. We've always had a saying, ‘you have to make your man feel you.' By doing that, every now and then you might get a little too close. But Serge is an aggressive player. He's a strong and quick athlete, and we like when he's aggressive and getting into his man.”

Ibaka said he's only getting better with time.

“I'm just learning,” he said. “I've been playing four years now in the league. Especially on the guys you play more than one time, like Blake, Dirk, all the big power forwards in the league, it's normal. You learn something.”

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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