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Serge Ibaka made his presence known early — just ask James Harden

Only a few minutes into this playoff series, Ibaka rose up and spiked Harden's shot into The Peake hardwood. It didn't dent the floor, but it sure seemed like it could've.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 22, 2013

/articleid/3792025/1/pictures/2023962">Photo - Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9) blocks the shot of Houston's James Harden (13) during Game 1 in the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 21, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9) blocks the shot of Houston's James Harden (13) during Game 1 in the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 21, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

But, of course, for as good as Ibaka was on offense, he was his normal dominant self on defense.

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.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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