After the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, it was safe to say the San Antonio Spurs were heading back to their destiny in the NBA Finals. But that assumption has clearly been clouded by the return of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka.
This season, the Spurs are 0-6 when Ibaka is in the lineup for the Thunder. His presence seems to have caused some kind of disturbance in the almost peaceful and effortless demeanor of the Spurs’ approach. This was most evident in the frustration exhibited by San Antonio in Game 4. Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan could be seen in obvious disagreement on the sideline during a timeout. Popovich was bantering with officials and picked up a technical foul in the process. They just looked plain flustered.
The last two games in Oklahoma City have been nothing short of a nightmare. But maybe that nightmare is all in their head and they just need to wake up. It hasn’t been so much what Ibaka has done on the offensive end, because he is only averaging 12 points per game in his return. But his 3.5 blocks per game has the Spurs second-guessing their opportunities in the paint. Their almost obsessive compulsive pump-faking down low was comical. It was similar to the fear a little brother might show to bigger brother, towering over him in some one-on-one hoops in the backyard.
Well this is it; the Spurs have to make a stand and defeat this inconceivable perception of Ibaka that has caused such fear. In Game 3, the Spurs shot 25 percent in the paint when they faced Ibaka but were able to shoot 50 percent when guarded by someone else. If this doesn’t scream fear, I don’t know what does. It is time for the Spurs to get rid of the monster under the bed and reclaim the momentum in this series.