Serge Ibaka's numbers as impressive, if not more, than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
The Thunder's ‘Serge Protector' set franchise record with 11 blocked shots. Ibaka also had 14 points and 15 rebounds.
With the Thunder clinging to a four-point lead with 26.4 left to play, Scott Brooks summoned his troops and ordered the most unorthodox of defensive strategies in the critical closing seconds.
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Twenty-one seconds earlier, Denver guard Arron Afflalo, known for his big-shot ability, had just nailed a 3-pointer to cut Oklahoma City's lead to two and inject more life into the never-say-die Nuggets. After Russell Westbrook buried a 15-footer, the Nuggets went right back to their money man.
This time, Brooks was ready.
“You might not believe me,” said Kevin Durant, “but at the end, coach said press up on Afflalo and let him go to the rim. That sounds kind of weird, right.”
Brooks knew the Serge Protector was patrolling the paint.
Serge Ibaka swatted Afflalo's driving layup attempt and rebounded it in one motion to prevent the basket, secure the ball and help the Thunder pull out a 124-118 overtime victory on Sunday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It was the last of Ibaka's career-high and franchise-record 11 blocked shots.
On a night in which Durant and Russell Westbrook stuffed the stat sheet with mind-numbing numbers not seen since the early '80s, they nearly had the show stolen from them by Ibaka, who added 14 points and 15 rebounds to register the franchise's first triple double with blocked shots.
It was Ibaka's third game this season with at least 10 blocked shots — the third time in 11 games that Ibaka's had double-digit rejections. The last player to record three games of at least 10 blocked shots was Shawn Bradley, who had five during the 1996-97 season.
“He's been phenomenal, man,” said Durant, who scored a career-high 51 points. “It's just fun to watch.”