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NBA Playoffs: Serge Ibaka swats Thunder into the second round

Apr 28, 2011, 4:00 AM EDT

Russell Westbrook AP

Is there a more fun team to watch play than the Oklahoma City Thunder?

They are pure passion on a basketball court. It was true again Wednesday night as this game had everything a basketball fan (especially an Oklahoma City one) could want — a come from behind win (they were down 9 at the three minutes left), big shots from Russell Westbrook and James Harden, and bigger ones from Kevin Durant (he finished with 41). Durant helped the Thunder take the lead on running floater across the lane — how do you defend a floater that a 6’9” player releases with his arm over his head?

But in the end, it was Serge Ibaka that won this game.

He had 9 blocks including two late in the game on Nene that sparked the 100-97 win for the Thunder, who advance to the second round for the first time since coming to the Midwest.

In a sense, this game played out like most of the series — Denver was plucky, energetic, they hit shots and made plays. Wilson Chandler awoke from his slumber and hit key shots. Ty Lawson was slashing the lane, as was Raymond Felton.

But with the game on the line, when it becomes harder to make those plays, the Thunder have the better athletes. They made the big plays. Usually we’re referring to Durant and Westbrook, not Ibaka. But this game the Thunder won with defense as much as offense.

The Thunder defended well, holding the Nuggets to 100 points per 100 possessions, which is 12 points below their league-leading regular season average. Oklahoma City has defended well all series and that was the key to their win. There used to be questions about their ability to defend inside but Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka change that.

And that should worry the rest of the teams in the West.

As for Denver, it should be proud.

A lot of teams would have folded after the Carmelo Anthony trade, but Denver played better team basketball at both ends of the floor. They played with a chip on their shoulder. They showed that there is some real talent on this team. It still needs its star — it’s Durant — but even without someone like that the Nuggets showed just good team play can go a long way. There is something there to build on.

The Thunder will try to build on this in the second round against Memphis or San Antonio, two teams that will continue to beat each other up while the Thunder sit at home and rest. And wait.

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  1. kast2l - Apr 28, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    regardless of who wins between memphis and spurs, i got Thunder in 6

  2. oumoonunit - Apr 28, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    The Serge Protector will win defensive MVP, next year, when he plays at PF for the whole year. The dude is a beast. A kid who is a man amongst children.

  3. seattlerogueburner - Apr 28, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    I’m probably the only one in Seattle to say this…but GO THUNDER!!!

  4. yankeesjetsknicksrangers - Apr 28, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Thought Denver should have won that game, had them and blew it, Those two floaters by Durant killed them.

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