More than one third into the season and the OKC Thunder sit two games under .500 (15-17) and 10th in the West. Having battled foot and ankle injuries, Kevin Durant has played in just nine games. You’d think Serge Ibaka, the Thunder’s 3rd wheel, would get more touches with Durant out of the line-up. He is… just not in the 4th quarter:
A longtime problem for the Thunder simply isn’t getting any better. Ibaka, one of the team’s most efficient scorers, continues to get shutout by his own team late in games. In fourth quarters, when he mysteriously mutates from asset to afterthought, Ibaka is averaging only 3.4 points on just 2.6 shot attempts.
And nobody seems to know why, or at least they’re not willing to say it.
Ibaka was on his way to a career performance through three quarters against the Mavs. He sat on 24 points, three shy of his career high, entering the final period. He poured in 14 points in the third to help the Thunder outscore the Mavs, 30-17, and wrestle away momentum.
Then the fourth quarter started and Ibaka attempted only one more shot.
It’s no surprise who is getting the ball. Russell Westbrook. But one of the most electrifying players in the league is anything but efficient in the 4th quarter:
He’s shooting just 39.7 percent in the fourth quarter and dishing only 0.9 assists.
Meanwhile, Westbrook’s usage percentage, or the percentage of the team’s plays that end in him taking a shot, a free throw attempt or turning it over, skyrockets to 41.9 percent in the final period.
“My job is to continue to attack,” Westbrook said last week.
But while Westbrook is shouldering the load primarily by shooting, he’s overlooking other sources of quality offense.
Ibaka is hitting 52.9 percent of his shots in the fourth quarter this season.
A season without the playoffs will only put more pressure on Thunder GM Sam Presti. Reggie Jackson is a restricted free agent and there’s Durant’s free agency looming in 2016.
Is there anyway Ibaka starts bitching and becomes the odd man out of the Thunder rotation? And would Presti consider moving Serge to Boston in a deal that involves Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk, a 1st rounder and salary filler?