With Russell Westbrook out, the Oklahoma City Thunder need Serge Ibaka to step up and contribute more offensively for the team to have success. After struggling in Games 1 and 2, Ibaka had another sub-par performance in Game 3 on Saturday, scoring 13 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the field in an 87-81 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Ibaka was really off on his jumper, going 0-of-7 on shots outside the paint. Making matters worse is the fact that Ibaka also missed some bunnies around the rim. That includes two dunks and a couple of layups, which should be gimmies for the high-flying Ibaka.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks talked afterward about what needs to happen for Ibaka to get out of his funk.
"He has to continue to fight through it," Brooks said. "We're going to stay with him. We're going to work through some of the offense where he gets these same good looks and he's going to have to step up and make him. We know he can and hopefully next game he does."
While Ibaka did take 17 shots, he did look hesitant at times with pulling the trigger. That points to a lack of confidence, something that Kevin Durant said Ibaka needs to get back.
"Keep passing him the ball," Durant said. "Just not let him too much pressure on himself. It's all in his head. We just need to continue to build him up."
To Ibaka's credit, he's not letting his offensive woes affect his play on the defensive end. Ibaka did a wonderful job on Zach Randolph, holding the Grizzlies' big man to eight points on 4-of-12 shooting while also blocking four shots.
However, as good as Ibaka is defensively, he still needs to contribute more on offense. He showed the ability over the course of the regular season, but now he must do it when it really counts. He's now averaging just 9.7 points on 30.8 percent shooting for the series, and if that continues, the Thunder will be going home early.
Quotes via NBA.com.
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