Thunder's Ibaka not just about defense anymore

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm •  Published: January 5, 2013
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"He's a machine," Collison said. "He's been that way since he's been here. He works and he puts in as much time as anybody. He's very serious about his work and it shows. He's improved a lot since he's been here."

Earlier this season, Brooks said there may be no one on the team he'd rather see shoot a mid-range jumper. The statistics back him up. Ibaka is tied for fifth in the NBA, making 56 percent of his shots, and he's working toward improving his range to where he can reliably make a corner 3-pointer.

While he may never be the focal point for Oklahoma City, Ibaka is developing more ways to contribute to the NBA's highest-scoring offense.

"I know when you have a team with Westbrook and Kevin Durant, one of the best scorers in the league, every night you will not touch the ball but just be ready whenever it comes to you and try to make plays," Ibaka said.

Some of Ibaka's top performances have come in some marquee games for the Thunder. He matched his regular-season high with 25 points and had 17 rebounds in a Western Conference finals rematch against San Antonio and had 23 points and nine rebounds in Harden's much-anticipated return to Oklahoma City with Houston.

He has four 20-point games already this season, after having just two in his first three NBA seasons — along with a few in the playoffs.

"Now we expect it from him," Durant said. "When he has a double-double, it's not like, 'Breaking news: Serge had a double-double!' It's normal for him now. He's playing well for us, and we're going to need that from him all season."

The Thunder went into the weekend percentage points ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the NBA's best record, with a difficult stretch ahead featuring 11 of their next 13 games on the road. It starts with a back-to-back set Sunday at Toronto and Monday at Washington.

"He's playing well. Teams are playing small against us, so he's hurting them on the offensive glass and he's making teams go big," Durant said. "That's to our advantage when we've got the big fellas in there. He's doing a great job on the offensive boards, shooting the basketball well and he's just playing with a lot of confidence."

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