The Oklahoma City Thunder's "Big Three" of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden is no more, but the new version featuring Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka looked every bit as good in a 120-91 Game 1 victory over Harden and the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.
Durant led the Thunder with 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting while Westbrook nearly notched a triple-double with 19 points, ten assists and eight rebounds. Westbrook helped set the tempo from the outset, pushing the pace and as Rockets coach Kevin McHale put it, getting "loose" on many occasions.
While Durant and Westbrook were their typically excellent selves, the brilliant two-way play of Ibaka was just as important. Ibaka had 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, displaying his improved shooting range by burying a corner three and a tough fadeaway jumper. He also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots to go along with altering numerous others.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks lauded Ibaka's effort on both ends of the floor.
"Serge was making shots and playing great defense," Brooks said. "Serge has improved on guarding shooting 4's and they played with their smaller lineup. He did a good job."
Westbrook also praised Ibaka, talking about the energy that he provided the team.
"Serge has been doing that for us all season long," Westbrook said. "Protecting the basket. He did a great job rebounding the basketball as well. He brought us a lot of energy."
Quotes via NBA.com.