The Serge Ibaka Effect: How He Impacted Game 3

By John Dreher

May 25, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks slaps hands with forward Serge Ibaka (9) as he leaves the court against the San Antonio Spurs during the fourth quarter in game three of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Oh Serge Ibaka. You hold a special place in all Spurs’ fans’ hearts. We hate you. We’d love to have you, but we hate you.

It all started in 2011, when you hit 11-11 from the field. I will never forget that.

The Ibaka effect is just that. An effect. When he enters the game, he affects the whole game. He gives the Thunder a defensive interior presence that most NBA teams do not have. Ibaka brings an intensity to the game. He dives for loose balls and hustle up and down the court. Also, Ibaka has a nice outside jumpshot that forces defenders to come out and guard him. This opens up the lane for M.V.P. Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook, his sidekick. (Note: On most other teams, Westbrook would be Batman)

In games 1 and 2, the Spurs averaged 60.0 points in the paint. In Game 3? The Thunder held the Spurs to just 40. This is a huge difference! Once Ibaka hit the 3 jumpshots to open up the game, he lessened the pressure on KD and Westbrook. The offense set the tone for the defense for the rest of the 48 minutes. 

Ibaka posted a monster stat line for pretty much having a broken calf. He had 15 points (6/7 FG), 7 rebounds and 4 blocks in just 30 minutes. If this seems good, but not great, go watch the game. When Ibaka wasn’t blocking shots, he was altering them. Most of the Spurs layups (when they got them) were contested. The Spurs looked like they weren’t motivated. They weren’t being “nasty” enough as Pop would put it.

Gregg Popovich even joked about it.

Even though Ibaka limped out of game 3 late on, he appears to have recovered sufficiently to be playing again tonight.

Same starting lineup for OKC, Scott Brooks says. In case you were wondering.

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 27, 2014

Although we are still up 2-1 in the series, the Thunder have captured most of the momentum. Lets hope we can get it back tonight.

Go Spurs Go!

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