Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka's sensational play a big part of OKC's recent surge

Despite challenging circumstances, Serge Ibaka scored 20 points with six rebounds Friday while helping to put the Thunder in position to have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 10, 2014

— Serge Ibaka has been sensational this postseason.

Nothing illustrates that point quite like the Thunder power forward’s performance in Friday night’s Game 3 against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Ibaka shook off two quick fouls in the first four minutes of the game and continued to be an engaged and productive player in Oklahoma City’s pivotal 118-112 win.

“I’m proud of Serge,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “A couple of years ago, if he would have got two quick fouls his game would have been dicey coming back in. But he competed. He wasn’t worried about his fouls…I thought he did a good job of playing when he had the fouls. That’s a sign of growth with Serge Ibaka, that he continued to play through it and not worry about his foul situation.”

Ibaka went on to supply 29 impactful minutes, the final five of which came with him being just one whistle shy of fouling out. Despite the challenging circumstances, Ibaka scored 20 points with six rebounds while helping to put the Thunder in position to have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.

“He’s competing,” Brooks said. “And when Serge competes, it always puts us in a position to have success.”

Ibaka’s impact, however, is increasingly being overshadowed by incredible performances by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. But the Thunder is in this position thanks in large part to Ibaka’s ability to contend with Clippers forward Blake Griffin, the second runner-up for this year’s Most Valuable Player award.

Ibaka has given the Thunder a reliable defensive option for Griffin on the low block and a steady source of offense that makes Griffin work at the other end.

Griffin has an advantage against most defenders, be it brute power or blazing quickness for a big man. But against Ibaka, Griffin has been relatively grounded.

In the first two games of this series, Griffin averaged 19 points on just 41.4 percent shooting. He broke out in Game 3, scoring a team-high 34 points on 13-for-22 shooting. But Griffin’s field goal percentage dips by more than eight percent with Ibaka on the court, according to NBA.com/Stats. And one of the biggest drop-offs is from within five feet, where Griffin is shooting 72.7 percent with Ibaka off the court but just 50 percent with Ibaka on the floor.


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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