Against the Celtics, Ibaka displayed his versatility, showing he could contain Garnett and O'Neal, and the possession that stood out most came with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Thunder had cut a 22-point deficit to 11. The Celtics tried to get the ball into Garnett on the left block, but Ibaka battled and battled until Boston went in the other direction. Seconds later, Garnett caught the ball at the right elbow, and Ibaka played straight up, refusing to fall for any of Garnett's shot fakes. With the shot clock winding down, Ibaka forced Garnett to pass to Glen Davis, who missed a 20-footer.
Ibaka spent the rest of the game contesting shots with his length, keeping offensive possessions alive and tossing in the occasional 17-footer. Without Green, the Thunder lost a streaky but solid 3-point shooting threat to space the floor. But the team gained a big man who played closer to the basket on both ends, helping to clog up the paint and shore up the Thunder's defense.
By the final buzzer, the two players Ibaka drew duty against had off nights. Garnett had just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting while pulling down eight rebounds. O'Neal scored only five points on 1-for-5 shooting to go with nine rebounds.
"He gives us more shot-blocking and more athleticism," said Kevin Durant. "It's tough not having Jeff out there, but I think Serge did a good job."