When Russell Westbrook went down in last year's playoffs, nobody was more affected than Serge Ibaka.
And that was particularly evident in the season-ending series against Memphis.
In Game 1, Ibaka went 1-of-10 from the field. In the five games, he went 26-of-69, an ugly 37 percent clip for a career 55 percent shooter.
When Kevin Durant or Reggie Jackson or anyone else kicked to Ibaka for an outlet, he rarely made Memphis' converging defense pay.
But of late, even without his All-Star point man, that hasn't been an issue.
Monday night's 86-77 win over Memphis was just the latest example.
Against that same bruising front line, playing that same aggressive blitzing style, Ibaka turned the tables.
The Grizzlies swarmed Durant at any opportunity, trapping the pick and roll and daring the Thunder's supporting cast to beat them.
Ibaka did, calmly knocking down jumpers or slipping inside for easy lay-ins.
And he did it right from the tip.
Before the first media timeout, Ibaka had six points and four rebounds. By halftime, he had 12 points and 10 rebounds, the Thunder's third double-double before the break in the past two seasons.
Overall, he went 10-of-17 from the field, finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
“Teams are starting to blitz the pick and roll, get it out of my hands,” Durant said. “Serge is doing a good job of rolling, catching that thing and knocking it down.”
Wednesday marked Ibaka's fifth game of more than 20 points in the past seven. It's the most prolific offensive stretch of his career. And it's probably the second biggest reason — beyond Durant's every night greatness — that the Thunder continues to thrive without Westbrook.
He's doing it consistently and he's doing it efficiently, shooting 50 percent or better in eight straight games, a stretch in which he's made 70 of his 112 shots (62.5 percent).
“He's just playing with confidence,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. “I don't know if that's permanent or not. I hope not, if we play them some more. But he's playing with a lot of confidence, not hesitating at all.”
It's the Ibaka that didn't show up last May. It's the one that's consistently showing up these days. And it's the one that, even when Westbrook returns, needs to show up for OKC to maximize its potential come playoff-time.
Wednesday was just another positive step, burning a defense that he's traditionally had trouble cracking.