Oklahoma City power forward Serge Ibaka is expected to miss the remainder of the 2014 playoffs after suffering a grade 2 strain of his left calf during the Thunder's Game 6 victory over the Clippers on Thursday.
“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 GM Sam Presti said in a 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.”
With a little more than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter of Oklahoma City's 104-98 victory, Ibaka asked out of the game and limped off the court while holding his leg in discomfort.
Ibaka, 24, averaged 15.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 32.9 minutes per game in 81 appearances this season. A key piece for the Thunder on both sides of the ball, the ultra-athletic Ibaka finished fourth in the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year voting thanks in part to his elite shot-blocking ability.
Oklahoma City (the West's No. 2 seed) is set to begin its Western Conference final series with San Antonio (the West's No. 1 seed) on Monday at the AT&T Center.
With Ibaka out, Thunder coach Scott Brooks will be forced to rely more heavily on reserve big men Nick Collison and Steven Adams. Seldom-used reserve forward Perry Jones could also see some time. Oklahoma City could opt to start Collison (or even Adams) in place of Ibaka, or shift Kevin Durant to the power forward position and move small forward Caron Butler into the starting lineup. The Spurs start a twin towers combination of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, with versatile forward Boris Diaw coming off the bench.
The loss of Ibaka marks the second straight postseason that Oklahoma City has suffered a major injury to a key contributor, as Russell Westbrook was lost to a knee injury during the first round of the 2013 playoffs.