Serge Ibaka gets lost among other talented Spanish players, especially late in the game when Spain trots out Marc and Pau Gasol out of necessity to manufacture easy buckets. But, make no mistake: his help defense is valuable.
He’s played nearly 100 minutes less than Pau, registering nine blocks to his name, tied for the team lead. He’s averaging nearly six shots per game, while shooting 60% from the field. His production isn’t noteworthy but Ibaka is more than content to fill his limited role for the Spanish.
“I feel good,” Ibaka said. “I’m very happy. This is a very important moment for me and my career. These are incredible experiences. I work very hard and when you have the opportunity to play finals like this, it is the reward for all the work.”
The gravity of a gold medal match against the United States cannot be understated. But, instead of complicating matters, Ibaka’s motto is simple: Play basketball, enjoy and hopefully reap the rewards of hard work.
“We know it will be complicated because they play very well,” Ibaka said. “We have to play as we can. Now we are in the final, we have to play our best basketball, let them enjoy and we’ll see what happens.”
In a game that will bode down to minor strategic adjustments and execution, it’s fitting that Ibaka’s solution — simply enjoying basketball — is the antithesis.