And that's no easy task against Houston.
The Rockets play small a bunch, and that puts Ibaka at a disadvantage. He ends up guarding players who are much smaller and quicker than he is.
That tends to draw him away from the paint, where he dominates.
“It's a challenge for all of us when they go small,” Thunder defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha said. “But I think he does a great job. He's got a quickness on his feet.
“It's a challenge, but he can definitely do a good job at it.”
He sure did Sunday night.
“I thought he did a great job today of picking and choosing when to help and when not to help,” Perk said of his interior running mate.
The results were obvious. The Rockets never seemed to get comfortable on offense, never looked completely settled.
They shot just 36.3 percent.
“We didn't have a whole lot of flow tonight offensively,” McHale said.
Ibaka was no small part of that.
Sure, some of that was nerves — a bunch of the Rockets were playing their first ever playoff game Sunday night — but some of that was the shot blocker patrolling the lane.
Ibaka made his presence felt early and often Sunday night.
It might only be the start in this series.