This is a punch to the gut of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Or more accurately, a sweep of the leg.
OKC’s starting power forward Serge Ibaka is out for the remainder of the playoffs with a calf injury sustained in the third quarter of Game 6 against the Clippers, the team announced. He left the court at the time and went to the locker room, not returning to the game in the Thunder’s eventual series-clinching win.
An MRI on Friday confirmed the injury was severe enough to end his season.
“We are obviously disappointed for Serge, as he is a tremendous competitor, and we know how badly he wants to be on the court with his teammates,” Thunder General Manager Sam Presti said in a released statement. “At this point it is important that our team directs its concentration and energy towards preparation and execution for our upcoming series. As with all teams, our group has confronted different challenges. It is our collective experience that we will call on to ensure that we play to our capabilities.”
Ibaka averaged 12.2 points on 61.6 percent shooting, plus having 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game these playoffs — but those numbers don’t even begin to tell the story. He is the athletic, shot-blocking anchor to their defense.
Against the Spurs in recent years the Thunder have had success because of their length and athleticism, particularly on defense. The Thunder tend to stay back and protect the paint on defense, but because of the length and quickness of guys like Ibaka, Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha they can still get out and contest. That will not happen as much now. Plus, Ibaka has often been the third leading scorer for the Thunder, a reliable option when the defense collapses on Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Expect to see Scott Brooks try some Kevin Durant at the four against the Spurs.
Also, in Game 6 against L.A., after Ibaka went down, the Thunder had real success with a Nick Collison and Steven Adams front line. Those two are going to get a real chance, too.
But it’s going to be hard for any of them to make up for Ibaka.
Andre Drummond is a terrible free-throw shooter…except, apparently, when he’s shooting from the other free-throw line. Monday night against the Raptors, Drummond cut Detroit’s deficit to five at the end of the third quarter with this three-quarter-court heave at the buzzer:
Now, if only he could work on his accuracy from his own free-throw line.
Not a lot has gone right for the Nets this season, but an impressive clutch shot by seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson gave them their 14th win of the season on Monday. With time expiring, Johnson banked in a long three-pointer to put Brooklyn up 105-104 over Denver and secure the victory:
Johnson had 12 points on the night.
For about a week, word has circulated throughout the NBA that George Karl’s days in Sacramento were numbered. They’ve lost eight of their last 10 games, and players have more or less checked out on him. Remember, it’s only been a year since the Kings unceremoniously ousted interim head coach Ty Corbin to bring Karl in, which came on the heels of their puzzling dismissal of Mike Malone in December 2014.
Now, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the Kings have made the decision to let Karl go:
The decision itself isn’t surprising—it always seemed to be a matter of “when,” not “if” Karl would be fired. But the optics here are not good. If everybody knows it’s coming, it makes no sense to leak that the change is going to happen hours or even days before it’s made official.
The report of the Kings’ decision on Karl comes on the heels of a concerning bombshell Rajon Rondo dropped following Sacramento’s 120-100 loss to the Cavaliers on Monday night.
Via the Sacramento Bee‘s Jason Jones:
Sports Illustrated‘s Jake Fischer further reported that only three players indeed showed up on Monday morning:
That’s a bad look for everybody involved. An optional shootaround is more or less unheard of in the NBA, and if only three players bothered to come, that’s an unignorable sign that the team has quit on Karl.
Since he came into the league, Karl-Anthony Towns‘ offensive footwork has been unusually advanced for a rookie. He showed off his impressive moves again on Monday night, getting to the basket around Luke Babbitt with this spin: