Last night's game between the Thunder and Nets wasn't nearly the same close affair as the first time out. OKC jumped on Brooklyn early on their way to a 120-95 win. In the course of events, Serge Ibaka took on veteran Kevin Garnett. Here is the tale of the tape.
- Serge Ibaka; 5th season; Age: 24
- Kevin Garnett: 18th season, Age 37
In the ultimate "old dog showing the new dog his tricks" matchup, it was the veteran Kevin Garnett against the up-and-coming Serge Ibaka. The career numbers obviously weighed heavily in favor of the Hall of Fame-worthy Garnett, as do the accolades.
The 15-time All Star, former league MVP and NBA champion Garnett came in averaging 18.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks for his career. Ibaka's averages were far more modest at 10.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.
But that of course ignores the reality of this matchup. Because as the veteran Garnett is in the twilight of his career, Ibaka is reaching new heights each year, continuing in 2013-14 where he is averaging career highs in minutes, points and rebounds. Garnett, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is down to career lows in minutes and points, and has his lowest rebound total since his rookie season during Bill Clinton's first term - who was, ironically, seated courtside for Friday night's game.
Here's the interesting thing about Ibaka in relation to Garnett's career. Garnett came onto the scene early (granted, out of high school, but at a time when that was pretty common) and was an immediate factor in the league. Ibaka was - and in many ways still is - a very raw talent that needed polishing before he could assume an expanded role. And as he is just now averaging more than 32 min. a game, Garnett was averaging 38 by year two.
So the numbers from both players' first five years may make it appear as if Garnett was far superior. But the per 36 numbers are actually interesting in how similar they are.
Over each of their respective first five seasons, Garnett's scoring averaging of 17.3 bests Ibaka's, but Ibaka is actually averaging one more rebound and two more blocks per 36 minutes over that same span.
And on top of all of that, the one area for which Ibaka to boast his most distinct advantage over Garnett is in field goal percentage. And that turned out to be the story of Friday night's blowout win in Brooklyn. Because over the course of the evening, Garnett, a career 49.7 percent shooter, watched/tried defending unsuccessfully as Ibaka, a career 54.7 percent shooter, didn't miss all night. No seriously, he went 12 for 12.
Ibaka's line is monstrous in itself. 25 points on 12 of 12 shooting and nine rebounds, all in just 30 minutes of action. Garnett, on the other hand, didn't record a single point and pulled down just one rebound in just 12 minutes of play.
This shouldn't be a surprise, really, as Garnett is averaging just 21 minutes a game as it is. And when OKC took a 29-point lead into halftime, there was really no need for Garnett to risk injury at this point in the season.
Ibaka, meanwhile, is on a mini tear himself, scoring 20+ points in four of his last five games.
This Ibaka block of Andray Blatche in the first quarter (don't know where the link is on the NBA linked box score video but it's on there.)
Since the only real highlight between Ibaka and Garnett was... honestly I can't even think of one, this play from Ibaka is a fitting substitute. It illustrates how far Ibaka has come as a defender, and in many ways mirrors what made Garnett so terrifying for so many years.
Watch the entire sequence. Ibaka scores on the offensive end and gets a little spring in his step. Then, on the defensive end, he fights through a screen and roll and sticks with his man. As the play swings to the corner, he senses the rest of the play developing around him. With his man stationary on the wing, Ibaka stays close enough to defend a kickout, but also keeps eyes on Deron Williams, the ball handler, who begins to drive. Once it becomes clear Williams won't be able to dish it back to the wing, Ibaka begins to creep in for a potential long rebound or, in this case, to also fill a cutting lane. And while Blatche still catches the pass cleanly, Ibaka uses those out-of-this world instincts to swat the ball into the first row.
Ibaka gives the finger wag. Even KD gives a finger wag.
This time, in 2014, it was the new dog using the old dog's tricks all for himself.
Matchup winner: Serge Ibaka.
Next Matchup: Reggie Jackson vs. John Wall.