It was no surprise that Ibaka was at his very best catching and shooting, something he’s developed quite well in his four NBA seasons. Some of his shots rattled out Tuesday, but his midrange game, whether curling off screens or catching pick-and-pop passes, remains a dangerous threat.
Ibaka said he’s using the preseason to build up the other facets of his offensive game.
“Some nights are tough, like tonight. But the good thing about it is I’m more aggressive,” Ibaka said, “The preseason is good for us. That’s how you learn. I’m sure everything I’m doing right now in the preseason, good and bad, I’m going to learn from and be better when we start the season.”
This year, Ibaka vowed to maintain his aggressiveness in the regular season, when Durant and Westbrook are the unquestioned focal points. It’s a mindset Ibaka said he developed in last year’s postseason, when his effectiveness plummeted following Westbrook’s injury.
“We need different options. Russ and Kevin are only two guys. They cannot do everything by themselves,” Ibaka said. “They need some help, from me to (Kendrick) Perk, to Thabo (Sefolosha) to Reggie. So that’s why I keep trying to get a rhythm and confidence right now in the preseason. No matter what, good or bad, I keep doing it. That’s how I will get confidence. I cannot just get confidence when everything is going well. I need to try to work hard when things are going bad. That’s how I get my confidence.”
With Westbrook still healing from knee surgery and Durant getting the night off, the Thunder shot just 38.5 percent and struggled to create much of anything resembling an offensive flow.
Jackson scored a game-high 18 points but made just seven of 17 shots. Jeremy Lamb added 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting, and Perry Jones III chipped in 12.
Rookie center Steven Adams had another strong showing, scoring 10 points with eight rebounds in 26 minutes.
But the Thunder struggled again with turnovers, coughing it up 22 times before watching Phoenix turn those into 24 points. OKC also got outworked on the boards, losing that battle 50-41, and misfired on 17 of 19 3-pointers.
Afterward, the team’s most disappointing performance this preseason clearly did not sit well with the coach.
“Every minute is a minute to get better, and you have a choice to play those minutes hard,” Brooks said. “I thought we could have done a better job with that. We have to play our minutes hard. We have to be able to defend with toughness, we have to be able to box out and we have to be able to rebound. And we didn’t do that tonight.”