Thunder to soldier on without Ibaka

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

VIDEO: OKC’s Ibaka done for rest of playoffs

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered a significant injury blow to their title hopes Friday with power forward Serge Ibaka, one of the league’s premiere shot blockers, likely to miss the rest of the postseason with a Grade 2 strain of his left calf.

The Thunder opens the Western Conference finals Monday night on the road against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. Ibaka limped off the Staples Center floor in the third quarter of Thursday’s series-clinching victory of the Los Angeles Clippers. He immediately headed to the locker room and did not return. An MRI exam on Friday revealed the strain.

Through the second round of the playoffs, Ibaka was averaging 12.2 ppg — shooting 61.6 percent from the floor (69-for-112) — plus 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 33.9 mpg. Monday’s game will be only the second time this season the Thunder will play without their 6-foot-10 paint protector.

“We are obviously disappointed for Serge, as he is a tremendous competitor,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. “We know how badly he wants to be on the court with his teammates.”

It’s the second consecutive postseason that the Thunder has had to deal with a key season-ending injury. Last year point guard Russell Westbrook tore the meniscus in his right knee during the first round and Oklahoma City was bounced from the playoffs in the semifinals against Memphis.

Oklahoma City defeated the Spurs in the West finals in 2012, 4-2, after losing the first two games at San Antonio. Repeating that feat just became tougher.

Ibaka, 24, played 81 games during the regular season and recorded career-highs with averages of 15.1 ppg and 8.8 rpg while leading the league in total blocks for the fourth consecutive season with 219. He’s been as durable as they come, missing just two games over the last four regular and postseasons.

The loss throws a wrench into coach Scott Brooks‘ rotation. Veteran backup forward-center Nick Collison, whose minutes were limited in the Clippers series, is a candidate to start at forward alongside starting center Kendrick Perkins. More minutes will likely be available to emerging rookie backup center Steven Adams, who had monstrous Game 6 in Los Angeles with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes. Little-used forward Perry Jones and center Hasheem Thabeet are also available to absorb spot minutes if needed.

Brooks could also employ a smaller lineup at times that has been successful in which Kevin Durant plays the power forward position, however pitting Durant defensively on Duncan might not be a strategy Brooks will want to use often.

“We’ve had this group together for quite a while,” Presti said. “We’ve been through some ups and downs and this one will only make us better.”

The Spurs are also dealing with an injury to a key player, although the left hamstring issue that hampered point guard Tony Parker in their series-clinching Game 5 against Portland does not appear to be serious. Parker said the Grade 1 strain will not keep him out of Game 1.

86 Comments

  1. okcDoke2014 says:

    Spurs play team ball, better defense and series done in 5 or 6 games.

  2. Titus says:

    illuminati.

  3. Scooter says:

    Do you really think the Spurs have a chance? Have you seen one spur on any NBA promo?? NO It’a all Durant, LeBron and George. Thunder will eek in with the complete help of the refs just like the first 2 rounds.

  4. okcDoke2014 says:

    This is not regular season and Spurs are going to dismantle their next opponent

  5. Eaglos says:

    Always glad when “dirty” players get injured at the most inappropriate moment.

  6. #Nba Fan says:

    haha im sorry okc fans but durant be ridin the refs sometimes. O look im a jumpshooter but i also average 10 free throw attempts a game? haha its hilarious

  7. okcDoke2014 says:

    Definitely Spurs vs. Heat or Pacers

  8. Daniel Danielson says:

    Someone pointed out how BG and CP3 were locking their feet around someones legs every time they were knocked down. Blake did it to Serge and Perk a lot. I watched this on the NBA TV playoff playbacks and saw it. I think CP3 should feel ashamed for injuring Serge Ibaka. CP3 and BG arent tough guys from the hood. They are both pretty soft mentally and they will probably feel really bad deep down for injuring somebody.

    • BBall Fan says:

      I wouldnt feel bad about injuring a guy that has downright punched my teammate in the nuts on purpose. Screw that guy.

      • Timothy Bladel says:

        Blake is a flake

      • Leslie says:

        Sorry, but if you watch the footage from that foul, you can see that Blake is holding Ibaka’s jersey and pulling him back. Ibaka swats at him a couple of tmes to get free and finally hits harder to get free of him. Unfortunately Blake caught it in the wrong spot. Blake is one of the most loathed players in the league for precisely this reason. He cheats, flops, wraps his legs around players, holds their arms, etc. And he is not from the hood. He went to a private Christian school in an upscale area. He is a good player. There is no excuse for his antics. People in Oklahoma, where he is from, are ashamed of him. He is too good of a player to resort to such dirty tactics.

  9. Christian Noah says:

    REMATCH!! SPURS vs HEAT in the FINALS! this will be exciting…

  10. Dan Taylor says:

    People are think ducan is going to have a easy series last time I checked Adams plays 110% on defense and was pretty good against a athletic Blake Griffen when guarding him… Scott Brown knows how the spurs usually plan against the thunder… The spurs will probably win but you can’t count out the thunder Jackson or butler can step. The key to the thunder having a chance is if Durant plays aggressive on Leonard and the rest of the team can get the spurs in foul trouble

  11. KDfan says:

    Injury to one of your key players with the team needing to scramble to make strategic changes might work in the regular season, but NOT in the playoffs. The SAS are playing their best brand of BB right now. They play a game where a player loss/resting on the bench doesn’t hamper their defense or offense. That’s Pop, the “Emperor of all coaches”. Another big back-to-back setback for us. Anyone can get hurt. I’m sure we will play well but on paper as it stands now the odds very, very strongly favor SAS.

  12. Philip says:

    Thunder really have bad luck…

  13. okc2014 says:

    This isn’t good. At all. Serge Ibaka is key to winning ANYTHING. I just hope Jeremy Lamb, Adams, Collison and Jones step up their games. I still say OKC wins the Western Conference. They’ve got the MVP!

  14. JM says:

    bad news for OKC… tsk2… KD has to channel all MVP powers he has right now in order for OKC to pull this one off…. and Russ better play smarter than in the previous 2 series…

  15. Skillsthatkillz says:

    Time for Steven Adams to go to school with Timmy.

  16. Jilleba says:

    How can Durant and Westbrook beat an entire Spurs team by themselves idiots? Did you watch any of the games between these 2 during the regular season? 3 out of the 4 games Spurs plasters were injured and the 4th game, Pop played his bench 4th qt. and told them he didn’t really care if they won the game or not. Regular season doesn’t mean squat to the Spurs, and yet they still finished with the Top Seed. Leonard with play Durant, Green will play on Westbrook, and then that’s that. All you people who are saying OKC in 5 are idiots. Learn the game if basketball and maybe try playing in once in your life, before you come on here and make stupid comments. 2 players can’t beat an entire team

    • Ed J says:

      Oklahoma City Thunder will have NO chance without Ibaka against the San Antonio Spurs. It’s easy to say why. Originally this was meant to be a game between a young, fast and athletic Thunder against old, experienced and wise Spurs.

      With Ibaka injured, I can’t see Collison, Adams nor Perkins stopping Duncan and Splitter. The latter will make every second so hard for those guys, especially Adams. He’s a good prospect, but Duncan will have all possibilities to make him appear on Shaqtin’ each week. Tony Parker will LOVE that the Thunder are without Ibaka. He will be able to drive more easily, which also makes the shooters more open if Thunder decides to collapse when someone drives to the basket.

      I think Thunder could get a win, just because of extreme pushing by Durant and Westbrook. It will be the Thunder offense that will be able to give them a win, but their defense will have big troubles against the Spurs finess shooters and players.

      Over and out. End of discussion. Spurs will win 4-1.

    • okckd35 says:

      Wow. 1st off the last fame okc demolished the suprs off their 19 game win streak. Thats why people were rested not because pop dont care about winning……. and really the spurs were injured but so was westbrook and u all couldnt guard reggie jackson

  17. lol says:

    we all know the commisioner and the refs will still find a way to cheat their lovely OKC to the finals, just like with the last two series.

    • okckd35 says:

      Awww another clippers fan. How cute. I figured once u all lost u would go back into hiding like the last 40 years. But the Lakers will buy some new players soon so u can jump back on their bandwagon

  18. Shawn Kemp no. 1 says:

    barbecue chicken

  19. OKC is done without Ibaka. Parker is virtually unstoppable going to the rim and with no one there to stop deter him…it’s going to be tough.

    OKC can pull this series out but it’s going to take a Herculean effort from KD.

    • okckd35 says:

      Thabo plays parker pretty well. U are right about the shot blocking but the key to okc’s success is thabos ability to guard parker. Thats what changed the series in 2012

  20. Timmy D says:

    The difference between the injured of Serge Ibaka vs the Tony Parker is that our little boy called “MVP” will be back and Ibaka is done for the year.

    • okckd35 says:

      Actually durant is the MVP and hes not going anywhere

      • 37yrfan says:

        best ‘scorer’ in the league…….but when it comes to playing defense(the ‘other HALF of being a great-mvp-player) he is not even Close to being an mvp….. but hey, everybody loves the long jump shot, right……. you live by it and you die by it….

  21. Timmy D says:

    Go spurs GO L.B. and D.W. and all the cold fans we will win two at home come down to your house take one of two at time time we have the lead 3-1 and take it in game 5 at home.

  22. Chase says:

    Caron Bulter must take KD’s place while KD will be replacing Ibaka’s position at the PF to guard Tim Duncan. Jeremy Lamb needs to step up this time.

    • Julio says:

      Seriously? and put your best man to battle against the Hall of Famer and most experienced power forward in the league? Can you imagine how many fouls Durant will make? I think that would be the worst choice for the coach. BTW, we all know how the referees can give KD a good help…

  23. Bob says:

    wtf cp3 threw the ball at ibaka while he was down.. sportmanship much

    • NewYorker says:

      Ibaka lost all respect and sportsmanship when he nut check blake griffin on purpose time in and time out. His injuries is self deserved.

      • Game Time says:

        That karma at it’s best. The way Westbrook has been running around I think he’ll be reinjure soon.

      • okckd35 says:

        U lost all respect for being happy a player is injured. Just another poor loser clippers fan

      • justsayin says:

        Oh no how will we live without your respect.

        You’d change your tune if he c***punched you, ya hypocrite.

  24. dunjav2013 says:

    Reblogged this on dunjav.

  25. dustydreamnz says:

    I was thinking Spurs anyway because they play as a team and Thunder don’t but now surely the Spurs will take it in 5 or 6.

  26. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    Honestly at first when I saw the headline I was a bit happy not because he’s injured. But because I don’t have to see those former lakers now OKC fan boys crashing the msg board with their proclaim title.

    Hope you can get well soon, Ibaka the shot blocker.

    • Game Time says:

      Notice how they jump from prolific scorer to the next potential one?

    • okckd35 says:

      I havent heard about laker fans rooting for OKC. Especially since they are one of our hated rivals. Not to mention I live in so cal (old sonics fan) and im like the only person with OKC gear. Where do u get your info?

      • 37yrfan says:

        rival……… maybe a rival of the sonics…..not the new thunder……….please……

  27. ,jsdnckjasd says:

    The last time the Thunder wasn’t bugged by injuries, they made it in to the Finals.

  28. Game Time says:

    I still think OKC will beat the Spurs, but it will be based on Durant and Westbrook overworking themselves and all that will do is wear them out for the finals.

    • Dieter says:

      The Spurs are a better team than the Clips with alot more experience and a great coach… and the Thunder have to beat them without one of their most important pieces… I don’t like OKC’s chances at all.

  29. mikmaks says:

    Losing him is very critical for OKC. he was a big reason why they won 2 against the Spurs 2 years ago. He’s their main defender on the paint. Duncan will have a feast inside.

  30. Michael says:

    OKC just isn’t lucky…. Without Ibaka it could be a sweep. I wonder if Spurs will lose a game in this series?

  31. Brainundrum says:

    Unbias fan.

    Spurs have this series. The KD Westbrook 2 man game won’t work on a fully rested, healthy Spurs team. Those of you who have Thunder over the Spurs are sadly mistaken. If you don’t believe me, see you in 2 weeks. This is a different, stronger Spurs team than the one the Thunder saw 2 years ago.

    Spurs in 5

  32. jdub455 says:

    What a big big blow to this team… too bad… this will give the Spurs the chance to beat them cause with a complete lineup, OKC had the upperhand…. But this can be KDs chance in proving that he’s not only a versatile scorer, but can play the 4 spot effectively like Bron… I would have preferred Ibaka playin cause I’m a heat fan and the champs will have an easier time against OKC than the Spurs.. But now, with the current injury, it seems that we will see a rematch of last years’ finals… the 3-peat will be challenged… damn! Lol…

  33. pacerscheated says:

    cheating team gets what they deserve, grizzlies got robbed clippers got robbed

    • okckd35 says:

      Awww poor little baby. U are not a fan of the game obviously. Still crying. Maybe serge can sit with u and hold your crybaby tissue

      • 37yrfan says:

        Hey okckd35……its funny seeing you chastise another about ‘crying’ over “fouls” since you are the king of that kind of thing….lmao

    • justsayin says:

      You’re both wrong. Yeah they were robbed but it’s hardly OKC’s fault the refs blew game 5. (twice)
      And to think they could have played them sans Ibaka.

      Whatever BG and DJ would have still fouled out on “moving screens”.
      What an effing joke those calls were.

      • okckd35 says:

        What a joke u are. Still crying over fouls. Pathetic. Maybe of your team werent a bunch of floppers the.refs could.call a clean game. Not to mention CP3 choked and u still got beat game 6 In LA. CP3 will never make it to the finals. Hes a choke artist

  34. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Thank goodness OKC has Stephen Adams (good shot blocker). Otherwise, I’d be pretty worried. But Adams is turning out to be another great draft pick by OKC.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      As long as they got KD, Russ, Reggie Jackson (Spur killer), etc., they’ll be fine. Might not be a SWEEP but Thunder wins this series in 5 or 6 games. Spurs are a good offensive team but can’t defend the Thunder’s athleticism. Let’s not forget Parker is questionable with his minor injury. Balances out.

  35. Daniel says:

    How can anyone think that OKC will win this series now. It’s over. Ibaka is way too critical. I do not understand why he is so underrated.

  36. okc fan says:

    This indeed is a huge blow for okc. He was like the only one who could score down low for OKC, and also a great mid range shooter. Defensively he is the anchor of the team as well..
    Huge blow.

  37. standard says:

    OKC has like a curse or something since 2012 always some injury that do not let them win
    westbrook now ibaka whats for next year durant?
    chris paul is a dirty player

  38. Samuel says:

    Spurs vs Heat rematch..

  39. Randolf says:

    Good news for us Spurs fans! hahahahahah

  40. OKC says:

    wow okc cant catch a break. First they face memphis in the first round, then the clippers and now the spurs without ibaka. Tony Parker will have a field day in the paint.

  41. pacers-okc says:

    Big blow yes, but tactically it could prove to be helpful. It’s not like OKC would try and beat the Spurs 5-on-5. They are gonna run n gun, because that’s the only way to take them down. Durant playing at the 4 doesn’t mean he has to guard Duncan does it? He can take on Splitter, and well, Tiago is not gonna have multiple breakout games in this series even if Derek Fisher is somehow mis-match guarding him every second possession. The Spurs would have much more to worry about on the other end anyway.

    • ... says:

      Well you might be right. But there’s plenty of reasons OKC needs to be concerned. One of them is Tony Parker. Without Ibaka, there’s no one in the OKC roster who can decently defend the paint with dribble penetration. With that said, I think Parker will have an easy time scoring inside.

  42. Sean says:

    This has gotta be tough for okc. i got them winning it all but that just got harder without him but not impossible. i think that perry jones would be a good replacement and give more minutes to nick collison and stevn adams would be good idea cuz i dnt like kd at the 4 against tim duncan

  43. cp10 says:

    Huge loss. This has implications.

  44. Mleh says:

    I thought the SPURS moving to the finals but with Ibaka down i’m sure now

  45. A Baller says:

    Wow. This changes my bracket. I think it’s gonna be a rematch of last year in the NBA Finals now.

  46. TheKush says:

    Wow this changes everything! I guess it was karma for him punching Blake Griffin in the nuts on two separate instances on national television I dunno I wish him well! This is a good opportunity for Steven Adams and I’m guessing Jeremy Lamb to step up! I still have OKC winning this series! I wish Ibaka a speedy healthy recovery he plays hard every night!

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Spurs don’t like to go big like Memphis or the Clippers. They tend to like to go small to spread the floor with shooters. So … I believe the time for Jeremy Lamb to step up is now.

      • 37yrfan says:

        Spurs will go big, small ……whatever it takes to make okc play half court offense and not just transition ….. with Ibaka out the inside will be softer that’s all….Spurs in 5-6 with or without one of their starters…..Adams fills in just fine….

    • okckd35 says:

      Karma? The second time was completely unintentional. So anybody who hurts anyone deserves to be injured? Does zbo deserve to have his jaw broke? Does blake deserve to get even uglier for his floppiness?