Serge Ibaka's shot attempts in the previous 10 contests before Saturday's game at Cleveland have taken a curious dip.
The Thunder's starting power forward was averaging just 10.1 points on only 8.7 shots per game in the last 10 games. Against Memphis on Thursday, he attempted a season-low three shots and scored only four points, tying a season low.
In six of the previous 10 games, Ibaka failed to reach 10 shot attempts. In four of those games, he didn't get up more than eight.
Through the season's first 34 games, Ibaka was averaging 14.8 points on 10.9 shot attempts and scored fewer than 10 points only seven times.
“Like I tell Serge, ‘You have to do what you do well,'” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “And that is rebound, defend and run the floor. And your touches will come. That can't be his only focus, and it hasn't been ... He's going to get anywhere from nine to 12 shots per game on average. Very rarely is he going to get three or four like he had last game ... Because we need it. He's been a 14, 15-point scorer for us.”
Ibaka scored 18 points on 7 for 12 shooting with a game-high-tying 12 rebounds against the Cavs.
DURANT SUSTAINS RIB CONTUSION
Kevin Durant had to leave the game late in the third quarter with what was called a rib contusion, but returned early in the fourth period and finished the game.
Durant was inadvertently kneed in the back on a drive to the basket by Cavs forward Alonze Gee. Immediately after the bucket by Gee, Durant began clutching at his back and side. He stayed in the game for another two minutes but came out with 4:07 remaining in the third quarter.
After heading straight to the locker room, Durant emerged from the tunnel and returned to the bench with 1:04 left in the period. He checked back in the game with 9:55 left to play.
ZONE DEFENSE COULD BE COMING SOON
An idea the Thunder first flirted within the days following the NBA Finals loss to Miami last year, a true zone defense could soon be a part of the team's defensive identity.
Brooks, though, said he doesn't foresee the scheme being anything beyond a simple zone or used anymore than sporadically.
“I anticipate experimenting with it but not using it as a daily diet,” Brooks said. “Just occasionally throwing it out there just to do some disruption. Maybe on a sideline out of bounds or a baseline out of bounds. But it's nothing that we will do game in and game out because we're pretty good man-to-man. I don't want to change from what we're good at, maybe just add another part to our defense that can help.”
The Thunder switches on the majority of screens, which in a sense is a zone. But Brooks said the true zone is likely to be used in the next couple of weeks.
IRVING'S SHOT SEPARATING HIM
Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving continued to draw praise from the Thunder on Saturday, even before he dropped 35 points to lead the Cavs to a 115-110 victory.
Brooks said before the game the second-year man has a chance to be “one of the top point guards in the league.”
“I didn't realize he was only 20. I'm glad I'm not playing against him,” Brooks said. “But he's improved a lot. I think what's really going to help separate him from a lot of the guards is his ability to shoot. When you can penetrate and play the pick and roll and get into the paint and the basket with either hand and you can shoot, then you're like picking poison.”
Irving's point total tied Kobe Bryant for an opponent high against the Thunder this season.
Rookie guard Jeremy Lamb did not travel with the team to Cleveland. He remained in Oklahoma City while battling a low back strain. … Cleveland is now 4-15 against Western Conference teams. … Guard DeAndre Liggins was called for a technical foul with 49.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter. It was his second in as many games. … There were 15 ties and 19 lead changes Saturday. … The Thunder fell to 15-9 on the road. … OKC had 10 steals and 11 blocked shots against the Cavs.