If the Thunder is going to continue to miss this many shots, somebody's got to clean up the mess.
Serge Ibaka did precisely that in Thursday night's 111-105 overtime survival against the hardly recognizable Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
With OKC misfiring at a 41.9 percent clip from the field, Ibaka used his superior size and athleticism against the Mavs to score 19 points, haul in 17 rebounds and block five shots.
Eight of Ibaka's rebounds came at the offensive end, including two straight boards in the final minute of the fourth quarter that allowed the Thunder to drain 40 seconds off the game clock while clinging to a 96-95 lead.
“It was just him playing aggressive,” teammate Thabo Sefolosha said. “They went small for a big part of the game and that allowed him to really put the pressure on them with offensive rebounds.”
Offensively, Ibaka was the only Thunder player to shoot better than 50 percent from the field, going 7 for 10.
At both ends of the floor, Ibaka turned up huge.
“I thought Serge was phenomenal, what he did offensively, defensively,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He was protective. He was rebounding, getting the offensive rebounds that we need.”
Without Ibaka, OKC doesn't win.
“We needed every one of those (rebounds) tonight,” Nick Collison said.
The athleticism of the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Ibaka was easily evident when the Mavs featured a smaller lineup without Nowitzki or Chris Kaman.
“They went small and I don't really know too many guys stronger than him and keeping off the glass,” OKC point guard Russell Westbrook said.
Less than three weeks ago, the Thunder was the highest-scoring, best-shooting team in the NBA.
In the last five games, however, OKC has misfired at 42.4 percent from the floor and had dipped to fourth in shooting and third in scoring.
Sefolosha and Westbrook said the Thunder is getting good shots, they're simply not falling.
“Exactly,” said Sefolosha, who shot 3 for 7 on Thursday. “Looking back, we're getting open shots, good shots. We've got to keep shooting them with confidence and they'll fall.”