Sefolosha Does Double-Duty Defense





OKLAHOMA CITY — There was lots of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, as usual, and the quick-strike transition baskets that we’ve all come to associate with the Thunder as their trademark. But more than anything else in Game 1, we also learned OKC can play some OKD.

And that defense started and ended with Thabo Sefolosha, who had the wonderful task of checking Dwyane Wade for much of three quarters, then LeBron James in the fourth. Imagine, a guy who isn’t even the best defender on his team, being asked to slow two players who represent roughly 80 percent of the Miami offense. And he took down both. Chop, chop.

“I told myself I can do this,” Sefolosha said.

This was a powerful opening statement by the Thunder, out-defending a better defensive team, essentially beating the Heat at their own game. Miami had 40 points in the second half, where they lost the lead, their grip and the game, 105-94. OKC protected the rim, which forced Miami to take jumpers that fell in the first half but whiffed in the second. When that happened, it was a wrap — both defensively and in terms of the final outcome. The loss will certainly send the Heat scrambling to find a way to adjust by Thursday.

“Our players demand (defense) out of each other and out timeouts are always about defense,” said coach Scott Brooks.

Defense. That’s what Sefolosha’s about, too. He’s quickly earning a rep for accepting any assignment, no matter the player. Last series, he silenced Tony Parker in the second half of Game 6 to clinch the West title. Then came Wade, who shot only four-for-14 in the first three quarters, and finally James, who missed four of his six shots in the fourth and never took over the game as promised. To summarize, Sefolosha went from dee-ing up a quick point guard to a slashing two-guard to the league MVP.

He never gave Wade or James much to work with and kept each player from getting into a groove. Most of their damage was done when Sefolosha was guarding the other. Sefolosha was supposed to stick with Wade in the fourth, but when Wade went to the bench early, Sefolosha switched to James and stayed. That allowed Durant, who was guarding James, to use more energy on offense, paving the way to 17 points in the fourth. It also kept James Harden, who usually replaces Sefolosha in the fourth quarter, on the bench.

“We love what Thabo does,” said Brooks. “He’s a tough-minded defender. He understands that he has to be able to guard every possession like it’s his last, and he does that.”

Not taking anything from his work on Wade, who in some instances was his own worst enemy, but Sefolosha was most impressive in the fourth on James. Remember, this is the James who vowed to go nuts in the fourth to make up from vaporizing last June. And the setting was perfect for James to do so: The score was tight, Wade was clearly struggling and meanwhile Durant and Westbrook were threatening to break the game open.

And yet, James managed seven points and a pair of buckets. Therefore, two reputations remained intact: James in the fourth quarter, and Sefolosha as a defender.

“We knew he and Dwyane would try to take over,” said Sefolosha. “We were thinking of ways to slow them down. I was pretty fired up to make a statement. It was a challenge and I like that kind of challenge. I take it as an opportunity to show the world what I can do.”

Of course, it only gets harder from here. At least it should, anyway. James will look to even up the series and try to outplay Durant if nothing else, while Wade, after a mild 19-point effort where he rarely attacked the rim — knee issues, maybe? — will look to turn up his intensity for Game 2.

They’ll be ready, but after Tuesday, maybe Sefolosha will be, too.

“I’ve been doing this the whole year, and this is how I can help the team win,” he said. “This is what I’m here for.”

80 Comments

  1. BBOYBALLER says:

    HEAT GOING TO WIN
    NOT KDS TIME YET. NEEDS MORE EXPERIENCE BUT KD WILL GET HIS RINGS. AT LEAST 3-5.

  2. Bunny says:

    You do all realize, that Ibaka is really not that good of a defensive player? Actually all he does is block shots, and that is it. He doesn`t produce many steals, nor defensive rebounds, his on-man post defense is very weak and his pick and roll D isn` great either. And if you look at all the advanced defensive stats, he is just average. Every other category besides block percentage is around average and doesn`t even come close to, let`s say, Garnett defensive contribution. The fact, that he was on first team all-defense instead of Kevin Garnett or Josh Smith is just silly.

  3. Eaham says:

    nana naa na, nana naa na, hey hey hey goodbye. See you in hell Miami :)

  4. Patrickmarc says:

    Ibaka, Sefolosha, and Collison.. The big three !

    Ibaka is the greatest in this league, He can do what Mutombo was doing,
    perhaps not Manute Bol..
    but for me today, he is the king.

  5. POCOCOPS says:

    if you were 1 point up, 24 seconds left, had to stop the all nba first team from getting a bucket in that time, you can pick from anyone else in the league, who’s on your team? not ibaka for sure! but thabo’s a shoo-in. perk might conceivably get a game too, but thabo’s yr first pick from the games i’ve seen this season

  6. The TRUTH says:

    As much as I hate the Heat, they will win the title this year. Not because they are good, honestly Celtics could have beaten them. They will win because Stern says so. The NBA is a corrupt league and refs are given orders to favor the more marketable team. The entire big-3 heat franchise is Stern’s brainchild to bring in more viewers and create more buzz. NBA is the new WWE, its not a sports league its pure drama.

    • Mike C says:

      Hurts to admit, but I couldn’t agree more. Everyone keep there eyes open for a repeat of the officiating in game 2, of the Boston vs Miami series. ITS COMING! Stern will do whatever it takes to strech this series to seven games, guarantee it. Think about it, why wouldn’t he, its millions of dollars more in TV, advertising, & merchandising revenue. Lebron & Wade are his biggest cash cows, PERIOD! If they cant win a title on there own merits, Stern will find a way to make it happen for them. BRING ON THE REFS!

  7. Tony from Sydney says:

    Thunder will win the series, and the real MVP should be Kevin Durant. The fact is that Durant lead the league in scoring, while giving other players to score as well ie. Harden & Westbrook, his value on the team is unbelievable. Lebron won the award only because Wade was injured for most of the season, and he was carrying the team and putting up the numbers which he should have got as he is the primary weapon for every game offensively and defensively. Skill wise he is the best in the league, or top 3 in the league, but he lacks mental toughness. He would only wish to win championship alongside other superstars, because a team with him being the only superstar is not going to win a championship in his mind. Cavs was a very good team, but may have needed a little bit of tweak in the roster. But he cannot wait for a few more years, and he was not old enough to not to be able to wait, like Ray Allen, or Kevin Garnett. They’ve all done their time for their franchises, but they were tough while they stuck with their franchise, until there is nothing the franchise could do for them. The whole decision thing 2 years ago really got the better of lebron now, and he’s put so much pressure on himself because of what he did, and what he promised. He will even become the laughing stock of Cav fans if he doesn’t win championship this year, and then possible walk away from the heat and go somewhere else. Only if he could be more like Durant, whom is never eager to be the bet player in the league, who does not care about his own reputation but only for the franchise. Only if he could be like Durant, but it’s too late now. He’s gonna have to clean up his own mess.

  8. Marb says:

    I hope that the Thunder can keep Harden, Ibaka and Sefolosha for two or more NBA seasons, if they won this NBA Finals, they will definitely be the start of a new dynasty. I like how Kevin Durant stayed humble even though he is a superstar player and a good role-model himself and how huge the support the city of Oklahoma has for it’s team, you definitely see it on how they enjoy playing on their home court and their determination to win.

  9. Marb says:

    Why not play LeBron at the 1st and 4th quarter while D.Wade on the 2nd and 3rd quarter or a mixed up of both but don’t play both of them simultaneously similar to the approach of what coach pop’s did with tony and manu. But definitely one of them must step up. It’s sad that you can’t find any similar replacements for Rio and Battier, because there is no equal or better player replacement for them. If the Heat is as deep as the Spurs, they might have a chance of winning but comparing them to the Thunder with a full-rotation squad, winning is definitely gonna be an uphill battle.

  10. Marb says:

    The Thunder is definitely the better and deeper team of the two in the Finals. If you compare the previous opponents that both teams faced (Mavs, Lakers and Spurs) compared to (Knicks, Pacers and Celtics), the only comparable team is the Celtics yet it took the Heat 7 games to beat a Celtic team without Bradley, Jeff Green, Wilcox and Jermaine O’neal while playing with an injured Pierce and Allen. LeBron James and D.Wade are great players but players are human too, you can’t expect them to play the entire game without rest and still provide the same explosive output that they have from the first quarter.

  11. manok says:

    NBA.COM IS A LEBRON FAN… I BET THEY WILL CELEBRATE IF MIAMI WIN THIS FINALS

  12. Heat-Thunder 2012 Finals says:

    why does NBA.com don’t post on banner headline the GAME 1 victory of okc vs miami ? C’mon, the head is still “Onto the NBA Finals” featuring LeBron.. zzz, are they biased ?

  13. rei says:

    game 1 was a feeling out game, as said by lebron. He had a chance to take charge but too much offense and I sincerely think that they are a bit wary right now, playing 2 do or die games with the celts, who almost dismantles the heat if not for the lbj heroics. I think, its too early to showboat or anything close to that. But it was quite a statement that sefa said about lebron and wade. there’s no special thing about guarding wade for the postseason, he was out of sink and just contented of doing the outside game, right now the OKC should enjoy the moment while wade is resting….. just watch and wait ‘cos challenging the heat maybe a bad idea to okc, remember the celts? they almost won… see ALMOST.

  14. BbmakitcfoH says:

    Let me summarize:

    The HEAT can NOT match up with OKC’s Youth and Athleticism, last night’s game will stand as an example for this series and all future series!! OKC will be the nemesis to the HEAT’s desire for a championship from here on out, the HEAT have more hubris and bravado than Talent!!!

    Oklahoma City THUNDER!!! in Six games!!! Ya hear that, there’s a storm a’comin!!!

    yours truly,
    KNICKS FAN

  15. BbmakitcfoH says:

    Let me summarize:

    The HEAT can NOT match up with OKC’s Youth and Athleticism, last night’s game will stand as an example for this series and all future series!! OKC will be the nemesis to the HEAT’s desire for a championship from here on out, the HEAT have more hubris and bravado than Talent!!!

    Oklahoma City THUNDER!!! in Six games!!! Ya hear that, there’s a storm a’comin!!!

    yours truly,
    KNICKS FAN

  16. Timmy says:

    this is the thing that Avery Bradley would have done to the Heat if he was healthy.

  17. Jaime says:

    Why dont they try Ibaka on James?

  18. Patou says:

    Not 1, not 2, not 3 need to came with they A game to beat the OKC. As you can see KD is a good talented player he have skills, he can shout. Please Thunder close this out for me because am so tired of the media talking about this Miami Heat Team. I believe this is going to be interested I just want OKC to win tomorrow thank take one at MIami than a will be over. Than queen Lebron will say not 1 not 2 not 3 equal to 0 (Zero). OKC deserve this championship after taking out Marvericks, Lakers, Spurs. Let’s Go KD let’s show them who deserve the MVP!!!

  19. Patou says:

    No matter what the outcome – MVP went to the wrong player..

  20. Ziek says:

    What Sefaloshia is doing is the same with Bowen’s task when he shut down James in 2007 finals.

  21. JRich says:

    Just like to question who actually was the primary defender on LeBron? I’ve read two articles so far on NBA.com, both of which have claimed different players, Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Durant, were responsible for limiting Lebron’s output in the fourth quarter.

  22. Bing says:

    Ibaka is WAAAAAY overrated as a defender. The only thing he is able to do quite well is block shots. He is often lost on D, doesn’t defend post well at all, has serious difficulties defending pick and roll etc, Kevin Garnett plays defense light years ahead of that of Ibaka, but isn’t as flashy like Ibaka’s blocks so all-about-highlights-stats-and-business NBA robbed KG of yet another 1st def team. And this is coming from a LAKERS fan.

    Also, I don’t know do these writers even watch games sometimes. Sefolosha is by far the best perimeter defender on OKC’s team and regularly guards the opposing team’s best perimeter player (like kobe and tony parker in this year’s playoffs) and second best defender overall, behind perkins. Only people who create their opinions based on solely headlines, highlights and box scores can possibly think ibaka is the better defender.

  23. Mike C says:

    @Shaun Powel. What, no excuses for the Heat this game & how they didn’t play up to their potential; and thats the ONLY reason why OKC won game one? You disappoint me Shaun. You’ve made it very clear the entire playoffs, that no team actually beats the heat because of their own skill and effort. No, thats IMPOSSIBLE! According to you the only reason the Heat ever lose is just because they had an off night, no other reason. I cant wait till OKC closes out this series and wins the title. I wonder what excuses you’ll come up with to explain ANOTHER missed opportunity at a championship. If I were you I’d get to work, NOW, on those “EXCUSES”. This series will be over very SOON!

  24. Steven says:

    It’s great to see an Swiss basketball player taking part to the NBA finals ! Go Thabo !

  25. Greg says:

    Hey, here’s the real story: LeBron as good as MJ?? LeBron to get more titles than MJ?? WHAT A JOKE!!! LeBron could not hold MJ’s jock strap – his constant disappearing act in critical 4th quarters is now legendary – he is not now nor will he EVER BE anything more than OVER-RATED. There is only one MJ, and we shall never see him again. Thos of us lucky enough to see MJ in his prime (and in person) should be thankful – we saw a guy with heart, desire, and talent, not just an overpaid braggart!!!!!!!

    • Francisco says:

      hater, he average 7.5 points per quater, 30 points a game , he scored 7 in the fouth, back to school ignorant.

      • KOBE says:

        7 in the fouth..hahaha..he did score more then he averaged last year..which was 2..MVP NEED TO SCORE MORE THEN 7 AND SHOOT MORE THEN 6 TIMES IN THE 4TH..LOOK WHAT DURANT DID…MR STAT GUY..STICK TO SOCCER

    • KOBE says:

      AGREE WITH U..THE TIN MAN HAS NO HEART(AKA THE KING)4TH QUARTER HE JUST STANDS THERE DOESNT WANT THE ROCK..LOOK AT HIS STATS(THIS IS FOR U FRANCISCO) FOR THE FINALS WAY DOWN ..PLUS HE IS 2-9 IN THE FINALS..IF U R THE SO CALLED KING SCORING 7 POINTS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH..TAKING 6 SHOTS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH..DEDFENDING PERKINS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH…DURANT SCORED 17 ..GUARDED LEBRON..THAT IS WHAT A REAL MVP DOES

      • Francisco says:

        most durant baskets were uncontested open shots, bad heat defense, lebron barery guarded duran , when he did he did not scored, lebron was doubled team , durant not, DURANT IS A LONGER VERSION OF RAY ALLEN, JUMP SHOOTER THAT IS IT
        HE IS THRIVING IN A VERY YOUNG, VERY DIVERSE AND ATHLETIC TEAM.

  26. haitianmike83 says:

    all you haters constantly criticizing Lebron all it shows is that you watching he’s every movement when you hate someone you dont follow them some of ya come at this dude like hurt girlfriends

    • OKCKD35 says:

      Durant > Lebron, 36 points to 30 points with Durant taking 4 less shots, 17 to 7 in the 4th quarter, maybe if LeBron didnt always guarantee what he CANT back up maybe people would leave him alone, still done see any of those 7 titles he promised, didnt he also guarantee he would take over in the 4th? Looks like the real MVP did.

  27. Law064 says:

    Gotta admit Serge should’ve won DPOY. He’s the best defender but Sef is the 2nd best on the team even though KD is a pretty good defender as well. OKC can win this is they keep Wade and James out the paint..Play of the night KD going over Bosh just a sweet dunk

  28. haitianmike83 says:

    this was one for the ages but the heat took their feet of the gas they need to stop westbrook durant is great but he needs westbrook to run offense if the heat coach doesn’t start making better decisions the series will be over he’s not a real coach a real coach starts elementary then high school, then college then pros he was a video guy lol he just dont have the repetition these coaches have they know what plays work when things become stagnant game tied 73 to 73 heat offense is dead in the water why didn’t he call time out to change things before thunder ran away with it the thunder had heat in half court offense so why wasn’t the offense ran thru bosh maybe subbing James Jones into the game or mike miller and set a couple screens to open up the lanes again for wade and James. he simply doesn’t have the wits to conjure up plays in time of stagnation of his offense. bosh needs more touches he needs the ball in the half court offense its like the coach is blind to whats going on in the game.

  29. David Sanders says:

    Usually when the media explodes on how the other team dominated the Heat, or even worse, how the other team LOCKED UP LeBron James, the next game is horrible for their opponents. You just cant boost up Sefo like he can truly do this well on LeBron for 3 more games. Because you all, and the world seem to forget about 40, 18, & 9. And 45, 15, and 5. He will probably do it in Game 2. That last game was infuriating for the Heat and LeBron. And by the looks of these quotes, Sef gave LeBron no credit and put himself on a pedestal. Now he just put himself on an insland and is fresh meat for the kill. Watch LeBron have 45+ out of anger Thursday.

    -SIGNED OKC FAN

    • OKCKD35 says:

      -signed fake OKC fan with those statements, who cares if LeBron goes off for 45, Battier will not have anohter 17 point game, Miami has nothing outside of LeBron and James, remember OKC won this with a 5 point game from Harden, i cant wait til Miami puts Bosh back in the starting lineup, then they will truly have nobody off the bench!

  30. jayruz says:

    miami has a solid bench if they want it.. just give them a chance coach eric.

  31. kuso says:

    demn i missed this game!!

  32. V. says:

    Saying that Thabo is not the best defender on the team when talking about guarding the big two is some bull. We all know about Ibakas shotblocking, but he’s not the best one on one defender, he’s not even the best post-defender, all he does is get blocks and rebounds ( like Camby used to do)

  33. Celtics nation says:

    Ummmm Serge Iblocka DPOY

  34. ton says:

    for me eric isn’t good coach , hope you understand this eric… basketball team had 12 players not only 8 players and almost you played 7 only… can you check again your tape

  35. better statement please says:

    Ibaka is the best post defender
    Thabo is the best perimeter defender

  36. Angelo says:

    he is their best PERIMETER defender. but Ibaka has the title of being Second Best Defender in the entire league.

  37. Jayvee says:

    The only reason why Sef got the best of James in the 4th is that his too tired of carrying the team through 1st to 3rd….I’m a Heat fan, and I had my money on them..so com’on guys…we need some reinforcement out here….What about your A-game the next 6 games….Talking to you Bosh and the rest of the line…

  38. Pete says:

    Nba block leader Ibaka

  39. i3lance says:

    Ibaka won Defensive player of the year so don’t kid yourselves, Sefa did a great job last night but he isn’t the best player. In fact that says a lot about the effort he is putting in.

    Credit to him because D’ing up DWade and Lebron on ANY given night is no easy task let alone the NBA finals when it’s on the line.

  40. OKD says:

    I was also initially shocked that they said Sefolosha isn’t the Thunder’s best defender. Then I remembered they have Ibaka, the man who came up second in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

  41. QUEEN LEBRON says:

    I hope the referees will not give 46 free throws to MIAMI HEAT again, and not to call on a foul on critical time like what happened in game 2 of HEAT and CELTS.

  42. tylete hardin says:

    Ibaka is avg 4 blocks a game remmber the 10 block games

  43. Knicks' Tyson Chandler is says:

    the 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. But we all know OKC’ Serge Ibaka should be, and he is regarded as OKC best nowadays.

  44. Douglas says:

    He pin pointed it exactly. The two star feel like they have to take over. When they do against a great team defense they will lose because the other players are standing around watching them. If they lose the next one its over. Have to win one in OKC and this was the game to win. Well done OKC on another come back and ice it win by Durant and Westy.

  45. Lou says:

    what?? sefolosha?? not the best d player on the teaM?? that’s what he’s known for!!!

    • finals! says:

      im not very sure, but do you happen to hear about this guys called serge ibaka? i dont know man, but i heard he’s pretty good with D..

      • tp9 says:

        sefolosha the best perimeter defender and a very good post defender. ibaka can only guard the post and block shots. so thabo is the best defender on the thunder. no doubt.

    • Patrick says:

      you obviously dont know much about the OKC roster do you?

    • CManley says:

      They mean Ibaka ya ding-dong

    • KP says:

      so are Ibaka and Perkins, one of whom made the All NBA Defensive team..

    • nico says:

      serge ibaka is there best defender

    • LAL says:

      sefolosha is a good perimeter defender, but when you’re talking about who the best defender of the Thunder, he’s not that hard to remember. . . Serge iBLOCKA!

    • James says:

      Serge Ibaka has the most blocks in the NBA this year.

      If you are not a real basketball fan, try youtube and search Ibaka’s 12 blocks in a game.

      He did in twice this season.

    • Piru says:

      Ibaka sounds familiar??

    • Sam says:

      Serge Ibaka 2nd in defencive player voting!

    • FirstPlace says:

      Ibaka is the best shot blocker in the nba. but not the best defender on the thunder.

      • Jake says:

        Um…. A block is the ultimate defensive stop. Drains all confidence from your opponents, gives your own team a lift, and you get an opportunity in transition. 12 blocks a game = 18 or so easy points. Blocks ARE offense.

      • killin it says:

        Jake, you’re wrong there bud, a steal is the ultimate stop, a block creates a loose ball and will always make for slower transitional play, may look flashy and such, but can still be recovered..

  46. Jim F says:

    Sefalosha’s not the best defender on the Thunder?

    • Celtics Fan says:

      dont you know the who the defensive player of the year?

      • JamesJones says:

        Tyson Chandler.lol. Serge Ibaka came in second, maybe sefolosha’s the best perimeter defender for the Thunder

    • Tiffany says:

      Well he is the best perimeter defender but the author is referring to Ibaka as being the best defender because he made First Team All Defense and Sefolosha only had one vote. Now I think Sefolosha should have been on there as well. He doesnt get as much love as he should. I have long said we cant live without him. We left Harden glued to the floor trying to guard Wade and James too long. It almost cost us before Brooks put Thabo on them.

    • FirstPlace says:

      sefalosha has covered kobe, tony parker, terry, lebron, and wade in the playoff’s. So i would say he is the best thunder defender. Ibaka is the best shot blocker in the nba

    • cp3 says:

      sefolosha is the best perimeter defender on the thunder. definentely not the best post defender.

      • tp9 says:

        he’s the best perimeter defender and a very good post defender. ibaka can only guard the post. so thabo is the best defender on the thunder. no doubt.

  47. Victor Manoel de Brito says:

    Slowing Wade: not a so difficult task these days, as we can see. If D-Wade can’t show some serious improvement in the next games, Miami will be doomed, because LeBron can’t score 45 points any given night…