The image of OKC Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka missing a point-blank dunk attempt is about as jarring as the numbers attached to his first postseason series without Russell Westbrook and James Harden. In three games against the Memphis Grizzlies, Ibaka averages 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game, shooting at a 30.8 percent clip from the field. Other than blocks, each category marks a considerable decline from 13.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks this regular season, which was accomplished on only 9.7 shot attempts per game. Ibaka's up to 11.7 shot attempts for the postseason and 13.0 versus the Grizzlies. Ibaka’s struggles first cropped up in a 1-of-10 shooting effort in Game 1, but that was passed over because the Thunder won, 93-91, when Kevin Durant assumed control late in the game. Ibaka's trouble was more obvious Saturday, when he shot 6-for-17 from the field as the Grizzlies won 87-81 to take a 2-1 lead in their second-round series against the Thunder. Bouts of self-doubt crippled Ibaka throughout. As a result, he hesitated to take good looks and settled for worse shots and misplayed dunks and layups at the rim—something seldom seen from an athlete of his caliber. That lack of confidence caused Ibaka to struggle from areas in which he traditionally found success. More of an athlete than a post player, one of Ibaka’s marked improvements was his ability to stretch the floor. He added a more consistent midrange game and corner 3-point shot this season, which helped open lanes for Durant and Westbrook, both of whom were already adept at reaching the rim. In the regular season, Ibaka took more shots from midrange than any other place on the floor and finished 164-of-323 on 50.8 percent. That number has taken a significant dip in the playoffs, as he hit only 27.1 percent of shots from midrange and left Durant as the team’s only reliable scorer.
Ibaka's shooting struggles could doom OKC Thunder
Sporting News | May 12