On the Oklahoma City Thunder’s final possession of Game 4 vs. the Houston Rockets Monday night, Serge Ibaka missed a simple putback as time expired that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime.
The Thunder lost their first game of the series largely due to Ibaka’s absence. He finished with just eight points and five rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting. The Thunder cannot afford another performance like that from Serge.
The fact that Ibaka was bothered by missing that final shot so much is a good thing for the Thunder. Don’t expect Ibaka to no-show in Game 5, especially since the Thunder will be back home.
Ibaka holds one of the biggest matchup advantages vs. the Rockets and is therefore one of the keys to this series. The Rockets have committed to going small against the Thunder leaving an opportunity for Ibaka to dominate the offensive glass. He did that in Game 3 as he outworked Houston for seven offensive rebounds.
The Thunder in the post-Russell Westbrook world will need to adapt more than ever expected. Ibaka maybe the most. The open midrange looks simply will not be as frequent for Ibaka without Russ drawing the attention off him. Ibaka will have to find his offense from rebounding and hustle. He’ll need to play smart and cut when the opportunity is there and not hesitate when he gets the ball.
We’ve seen this before from Serge. By all accounts, he appears to be extremely confident in his abilities and taking more shots, which he’ll need to do, is something he doesn’t have a problem with.
The Thunder aren’t losing to Houston of Ibaka comes up big again like he did in Game 4. Odds are, he’ll do just that.