Thunder forward Serge Ibaka finished one block and two rebounds away from a defensive double-double against the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
The youngest player on the NBA's youngest playoff roster, the 21-year-old Ibaka had a career-high nine blocked shots, plus eight rebounds and just one point.
Ibaka speaks four languages, one being broken English, which like his overall game has improved immensely since he arrived last season.
"My game is every time not just offense, you know," Ibaka said inside the OKC locker room after midnight. "Some games, I come out with good offense – the last two or three games. Some games, is the offense. Something I can do every day is my defense. Offense? Some days, yes. Everybody can have bad day or good day. On defense, I can't come out 80-90 percent every night to do my defense. That is why I will stay focused."
Ibaka leads the playoffs in blocked shots with 4.8 per game. Chicago's Joakim Noah is next at 2.6.
Ibaka also ranked fourth in playoff rebounds at 11.0.
THUNDER SELLS OUT GAMES
In a span of approximately 20 minutes on Thursday, the Thunder sold out its first two home games of the Western Conference semifinals, when it will play either San Antonio or Memphis.
There will be other opportunities for fans to purchase a limited number of tickets when they become available. Fans can sign up for these ticket notifications by joining the "Last Minute Club" at thunder.nba.com.
In addition, similar to every home game, the Thunder will host the Thunder Rewards Zone promotion outside Oklahoma City Arena, where 200 tickets will be raffled. The raffle will reward 25 pairs of tickets, and another 75 fans will win the chance to purchase the remaining tickets.
Denver was eliminated in the opening round for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. The last seven seasons have been under coach George Karl, who has been eliminated in the opening round 12 times in 20 career playoff appearances.
In the last six seasons, the Nuggets have been eliminated by the eventual world champions three times and once by the Western Conference champ. Obviously, it remains to be seen where the Thunder will finish.
GRACIOUS IN DEFEAT
Karl made some controversial observations about the Thunder throughout the series, including calling the team and its head coach "cocky."
Thunder coach Scott Brooks served as an assistant under Karl in Denver for 2½ seasons. They met at mid-court after the series finale, said a few words and hugged.
Karl was gracious in what had to be a difficult post-game interview session.
"I want to congratulate Scotty and Oklahoma City," Karl said. "I will be a fan of theirs as I watch them play in the future."
Though the Thunder won the series 4-1, the matchup essentially was a tossup, which is often the case between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds.
Other than OKC's 106-89 domination in Game 2, the average margin of victory was 3.25 points in the other four games.
"Tough loss for us," Karl said of the 100-97 eliminator in Game 5. "We did not close out this game. We did not close out Game 1. They will both be tough to swallow right now. But we will, somewhere in the next week or so, wake up and realize that we had one hell of a season."
Awaiting this year's Orlando-Atlanta result, the No. 4 seed owns a 28-27 series advantage under the current playoff format that began in 1984.
As of Thursday, two-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant also was the leading scorer in the playoffs at 32.4 points. … No more games will be telecast on Fox Sports Oklahoma. All remaining Thunder games will be on ABC, ESPN or TNT. … After a 9-6 regular season that included a 7-0 start, the Thunder is now 13-7 in national television appearances.
"One thing that I can credit since I got here is the fans have been great. I'm just happy to be a part of this organization and happy that we can move on. I don't want to be a party-pooper or nothin', we'll enjoy tonight, but tomorrow we'll move on." – Thunder center Kendrick Perkins