The Orlando Magic were in sideline huddle for their final possession in last night’s NBA tussle between the visiting team from the land of Disney and the Oklahoma City Thunder. My thoughts from the Loud City seat I have sat in from day one of this franchise on the South Plains turned to Serge Ibaka. The sold-out crowd in the Chesapeake Energy (18,203) had watched Serge play one of his best games in recent memory with 29 points for the night and two consecutive “thumbs down” stuffs of Steven Adams, our favorite big man in the middle I always pull for the Thunder but on this night I had a problem. As I thought, Serge was picked to be the man to get the final shot and ultimately the game winner (this never happen in OKC in eight years).
On the Magic’s final play Ibaka got the drop on his defender on the right side of the baseline where he drained a nice eight foot jumper to give his new team a two point lead with 0,4 left on the clock. The Thunder’s last try to tie or win went bad as Russell Westbrook tried a running catch and shoot on the inbounds pass that came up dry. What is new? The failed play gave the Magic a tight 119-117 win this Sunday night. It was OKC’s third straight loss at home.
Ibaka was traded for various reasons by the Thunder this summer. It was a good trade for OKC. I had, in previous articles, questioned Ibaka’s age (he might be older than what is listed), his hands (not the best), his basketball IQ/on-court focus, and many times his intensity. He could go complete games with little or no stats to mention. Yet in those last few minutes of close game as a Thunder he was a defensive stalwart, something the Thunder miss today. But he was a limited player with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (and others to be fair) in getting the rock in offensive sets in crunch time. It was Serge that complained, finally developinh a very good three point shot, and becoming more of an shooter than inside power big,. But can you blame him? I cannot.
Serge was the winner last night, with his 31 points, acceptable rebounding number and the two block. He played significant minutes, never getting tired. The OKC media laughs at the trade Sam Presti made with Orlando, getting some young talent for Serge. But for one night Ibaka was the man. Russell Westbrook (who played a hell of a game) was the one that couldn’t make the final play, for the second game in a row. How many game winners does Westbrook have? Not many if you really want to know. Sure, without Russell we wouldn’t even get to a final shot for win. But on that last play, Russell is digging dry holes..
Yes, the homecoming was bitter sweet for Thunder fans but for one night l left the Peak feeling pretty good. Serge Ibaka will always be a Thunder. I am sure the ovation he got last night when he was announced in the Magic starting line-up proved that. As for later in the year when Kevin Durant makes his first appearance in an opposing uniform, you won’t be able to hear the applause at the introduction moment. The boo birds will make that a fact sports fans
Serge, thank you and congratulations on an outstanding effort on your return to OKC. It was my pleasure to watch you do your thing again.
Feature Photo: Alonzo Adams, AP