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News » Ibaka a mystery no more

Ibaka a mystery no more

Ibaka a mystery no moreNEW ORLEANS - Maybe this mystery man isn't so raw after all.

In his first real chance to prove he's more than a project, Serge Ibaka showed ability that 20-year-old rookie big men from foreign lands aren't supposed to possess.

Ibaka scored 12 points with nine rebounds and two blocked shots in 26 minutes off the bench Saturday in the Thunder's 88-79 loss to New Orleans.

Ibaka walked into New Orleans Arena an unknown. By halftime, the Congo native had media members sitting courtside gushing over his prowess for making plays.

"He battled and fought down inside. He's a strong kid that's really just now understanding how to play this game at this level," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

He showed flashes Saturday that made you think he could be closer to contributing than anyone will let on.

He showed range out to 18 feet, good hands in the paint when finishing dump-off passes with dunks and a nose for the ball when battling for rebounds.

On one possession, Ibaka swatted a Darius Songaila 17-footer, recovered the ball and was on his way to a breakaway dunk before Songaila wrapped him up.

Later, he set a down screen for Kevin Durant, read the defense and rolled to the basket when Earl Barron cheated on Durant. Russell Westbrook found Ibaka for an uncontested two-handed dunk.

"He was very active," said reserve point guard Kevin Ollie. "You don't have to run a play for him and he ends up with 12 points. It's a great find by the organization. I tip my cap to them.

"I think he'll be a great surprise for a lot of people. But he won't be a surprise for long because a lot of people are witnessing what he can do once he gets minutes out on the court."

Ibaka isn't perfect. He was out of position at times on defense and closed out on shooters sloppily at times by running out and leaving his feet. If anything, it's those unrefined defensive principles that could limit his playing time .

"I need more practice," said Ibaka, who had four points and two rebounds in four minutes Wednesday at Memphis. "With more practice, maybe next time is better. I want to do better defensively and rebound (better). I think I can do more."

For the Thunder , Saturday's game was another test in late-game situations. But Oklahoma City failed, much like it did at Memphis. The Thunder led 79-75 with 5:05 remaining, but the Hornets closed the game on a 13-0 run. The Thunder turned the ball over four times in the final five minutes.

Hornets guard Chris Paul checked back into the game with 3:45 left and the Thunder up two. He scored seven points with one rebound to steal the win. His 3-pointer with 2:13 left broke a tie and the Thunder's back.

"I think it's a great opportunity that we've been in two fourth-quarter games in exhibition (season)," Brooks said. "It gives our guys a feel for how to execute down the stretch."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 14, 2009


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