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Serge Ibaka can provide Thunder another power boost

He might not become OKC's biggest star, especially on a team with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But Ibaka will deliver some big-time plays, just like he did Sunday night vs. Miami.
by Jenni Carlson Published: March 26, 2012

Consider, for example, that Ibaka has scored in double digits in almost as many games in March (eight) as he did in the first three months of the season (12).

Talk about a Serge surge.

“Serge hasn't been worrying about if plays are going to get called for him,” Perk said. “think in the beginning of the season, he was.

“I think he's just finding the open spots, and he's attacking the offensive glass.”

What's more, as Ibaka's scoring has gone up, his rebounds, blocks and defense have not suffered.

In fact, they've gotten better.

“His on-ball defense one on one has improved a lot,” veteran big man Nazr Mohammed said. “He's known as a shot blocker, and as with most shot blockers, they're not shutdown defenders on their own man.”

But look at what Ibaka did against Blake Griffin last week. The Clippers star scored only seven points and managed to make just three of his 11 shots.

Credit Ibaka.

“He pretty much stuck him heads up one on one,” Mohammed said. “He's been taking a lot of pride in guarding his man and going to block shots. That's unheard of and unbelievable — guys who can shut their man down and block as many shots as he does.”

Thunder coach Scott Brooks said: “He's more than just a shot blocker. He's developed his game, and he's going to continue to develop.”

Brooks has long said things like that about Ibaka, but in the past few weeks, that evolution is becoming more and more obvious all the time.

That is great news for the Thunder. In the Western Conference, an ever-improving Ibaka is vital for this team. There seems to be a formidable front-line lurking around every corner — road games this week vs. the Blazers and the Lakers are evidence of that — so getting big contributions from Ibaka is critical.

Mind you, the 22-year-old is not perfect. He needs to do a better job catching the ball at the rim. He needs to finish in traffic more consistently. But even those things have improved.

Serge continues to impress.

The chances are good, of course, that Ibaka will never become the Thunder's biggest star. Not exactly a travesty on a team with Durant, Westbrook and Harden, is it? But from what we've seen lately, Ibaka can make serious contributions.

The biggest play in the biggest game is evidence of that.