The Memphis Grizzlies did a nice job of limiting the Oklahoma City Thunder’s primary weapon in Kevin Durant in terms of scoring on Monday night, or at least the nicest job that you can hope to do against the current favorite to win the MVP for the 2013-14 NBA season. Durant put up 31 points, eight assists and eight boards while shooting 11-21 from the floor, but only 2-7 from three.
However, the Grizzlies’ stellar defense had a much more difficult time containing Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka. In 37 minutes, Ibaka put up 21 points, 12 rebounds, one assist and one block on 10-17 shooting from the field. He was consistently using his athletic ability to gain an advantage over Zach Randolph. Ibaka’s performance in addition to Durant’s helped the Thunder earn their ninth victory in their last 10 games by a score of 86-77.
Over those last 10 games, Ibaka has been overshadowed by Durant, but has been fantastic in his own right. Playing just over 32 minutes per game, the forward has averaged 18.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and three blocks per game while shooting a phenomenal 59.3 percent from the field. While guys like Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb have played well, they’ve also been inconsistent. Ibaka has emerged as the reliable compliment to Durant as of late with Russell Westbrook still sidelined due to a knee injury.
With the Westbrook return to action looming in the Thunder’s future, Ibaka hitting his stride is incredibly important to the Thunder making a run to the Finals. If Durant can maintain his MVP-level of play, Westbrook can get back to form, and Ibaka can maintain this type of production, this might be the Thunder’s best opportunity yet to bring a title to OKC.