The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry pointed out that Serge Ibaka finished the finest five-game stretch of his career after the Oklahoma City Thunder lost a heartbreaker to the Golden State Warriors, 116-115 on Nov. 14.
Ibaka averaged 18.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, shooting 68.4 percent from the field over the five-game span featuring the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers and the Warriors.
Thunder Film Study only covers a week's worth of games, but we will take a look at how Ibaka expanded his offense against the Wizards, Clippers, Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks without really doing anything at all. Literally.
Ibaka scored the majority of his points on four play-types: the pick-and-pop, pick-and-roll, jumper off the drive-and-dish and offensive rebound put-backs.
Let's check out how Ibaka was able to use these four play-types to his advantage over the past four games and put together the best five-game stretch of his career.
Play No. 1: The Pick-and-Pop.
Example No. 1: Westbrook-Ibaka vs. John Wall and Nene Hilario
With enough spacing, there is almost nothing a set of defenders can do about the Westbrook-Ibaka pick-and-pop, kind of like how Wall and Nene had zero chance on this play.
Here, Wall and Nene have to commit to Westbrook because of his explosiveness. Wall tries to fight over Ibaka's screen, focing Nene to take an extra back-step. Ibaka is able to pop to the top of the key and drain the 18-footer with Nene too far away to recover.
Example No. 2: Durant-Ibaka vs. Jared Dudley, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul
Here, the defense has to account for Durant's ability to get to the basket and the free throw-line. Dudley fights over the top of Ibaka's screen and he and Jordan double Durant. Durant makes the easy pass to Ibaka after the pop and Air-Congo knocks down the shot near the free throw stripe.
Paul does a good job of noticing the play from the other side. The all-star point guard tries to shift to Ibaka on the pop, however he is much too small to give Ibaka fits on a jumper. Had Paul been Matt Barnes or another defender, this play could have been blown up or Ibaka could have easily missed.
Play No. 2: The Pick-and-Roll
Example No. 1: Westbrook-Ibaka vs. Andre Iguodala, Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut
Ibaka earns himself an easy bucket on this play. Actually, Westbrook earns it for him. As the two set up their pick-and-roll, Westbrook draws a triple-team on the baseline. Ibaka eases to the paint, receives the pass from Westbrook and jams it home.
Somehow, the Warriors don't account for Ibaka after the pick-and-roll. Iguodala, Curry and even Bogut all try to cut-off Westbrook's path to the basket. This leaves a huge opening for Ibaka's easy bucket.
Play No. 3: Jumper Off the Drive-and-Dish
Example No. 1: Durant-Ibaka vs. Nene Hilario and Trevor Ariza
Ibaka has to do almost nothing in this play, thanks to Durant. Obviously when Durant drives, Nene has to step into the lane to help cut him off. However, this leaves Ibaka open on the left wing, just below the three-point line. Durant draws the double, kicks to Ibaka who knocks down the Thunder's first jumper of the game.
The Thunder like to get going with an Ibaka-jumper. Usually, they use the pick-and-pop with Westbrook, but with this side-out play, the Durant and Ibaka drive-and-dish worked well.
Example No. 2: Collison-Sefolosha-Ibaka vs. Entire Warriors Defense
Westbrook starts the play by drawing Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut and even Steph Curry's attention as he drives baseline. This sets up Ibaka later in the possession.
Westbrook kicks to Sefolosha, who takes an open three from the right wing. Collison collects the offensive rebound and hands it off to Sefolosha, who cuts to the lane after his miss. Sefolosha receives Collison's pass on the drive and dishes to an open Ibaka just below the three-point line on the left wing. Ibaka hits the jumper as Lee tries to recover.
Final Play: Easiest Bucket Ever for Ibaka.
This has to be one of the easiest buckets in Ibaka's career. He and Perkins set screens on the top left wing, then each roll towards the basket. Perkins continues through the lane while Ibaka sneakily finds an unguarded zone just beneath the basket. Durant sees the easy pass, makes it and Ibaka jams it home.
These six plays have one thing in common: Ibaka barely has to do anything to earn an easy attempt.
Two things Ibaka used to his advantage over these five games: Westbrook and Durant.
Ibaka receives good looks because Westbrook and Durant command so much attention in pick-and-roll and drive-and-dish situations. On some plays, Ibaka barely even has to move. So many have called for Air-Congo to get in the post and deliver Hakeem-like play, however, he finds easier ways to score without even lifting a finger.