OKLAHOMA CITY – When the Okalhoma City Thunder nipped the Dallas Mavericks, 99-98, in Game 1 of this best-of-seven playoff series last Saturday, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka left his imprint all over this game.
Ibaka tallied 22 points, collected six rebounds, blocked five shots, and was 9-of-12 from the field while controlling both ends of the floor. He also had five dunks and completely terrorized the Mavs inside the paint.
Coach Rick Carlisle vows that Ibaka won’t have as much freedom to roam the court when Game 2 tips off tonight at 8:30 at Chesapeake Energy Arena as he did in the series opener.
“At this point you get a game into this (series), there’s more familiarity and generally things tighten up as the series goes along,’’ Carlisle said. “We’ve got to do a better job on the guys that are hurting us with the idea that they’re going to have other guys looking to step up, too.
“And it’s going to work the same way for us.’’
Ibaka particularly hurt the Mavs late in the game when he picked up a pair of and-one situations.
Ibaka scored on a layup, was fouled by Ian Mahinmi and converted the free throw to pull OKC within 94-92 of the Mavs with 1:47 left. Ibaka later dunked, was fouled by Dirk Nowitzki and converted the free throw to put the Thunder ahead 97-96 with 53.9 seconds left.
“In those situations we can’t be in a touch foul mode,’’ Carlisle said. “We’ve\ got to either back off or we’ve got to take a hard foul and make him earn two free throw. That’s just playoff basketball.’’
-- Dwain Price
Follow me on Twitter