He registered two of his four blocked shots in the first 3minutes, one on Spurs center Tiago Splitter and the other on Tim Duncan.
“His energy and his spirit,” Butler said of the most important thing the Thunder got from Ibaka. “Obviously we have missed that on the court. Everybody was doing something to try to compensate for it. But to have him back out there just being active and blocking shots and stretching the floor out knocking down the pick-and-pop, seeing that courage out there knowing that he’s not showing no pain or anything.”
Butler called it uplifting and motivating.
You could also call it gutsy.
Ibaka began showing a pronounced limp in the third quarter, when the minutes began to pile up and the adrenaline wouldn’t let him not challenge every shot the Spurs put up in the paint. After a block on Spurs guard Danny Green, his fourth of the night, Ibaka was as hobbled as he was all night.
He refused to leave the game.
Just like he did minutes earlier, Ibaka waved off a substitution. He was giving this one all he had.
“He was just saying he’s fine,” Butler said. “He kept signaling to the coaching staff that he was fine. Obviously we were worried about him and everybody’s keeping a tight watch on him. But he said, ‘I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.’ And he just kept gutting through. We needed every bit of that.”
Whenever he did come out, Ibaka rode a stationary bike or walked to the back to do more exercises. He tried to keep moving. Didn’t want that sucker to stiffen.
Ibaka was told it’s possible his calf could get slightly worse but not much worse. So he played.
And after the game, he didn’t want to discuss the pain.
“The most important thing is we got the win,” Ibaka said. “And my focus is about the next game.”
Then he thanked God. He thanked Thunder fans. He thanked his teammates.
“I will never stop thanking them for tonight,” Ibaka said. “I will never forget them. It was very special tonight.”