Serge Ibaka didn’t have to start to finish off the Brooklyn Nets. Read MoreWOLSTAT: Ibaka was massive in Raptors sweep of Nets — Toronto Sun
Serge Ibaka didn’t have to start to finish off the Brooklyn Nets.
The Raptors big man had his third strong game in the four first-round contests on Sunday, completely dominating the Nets at both ends of the floor.
WOLSTAT: Ibaka was massive in Raptors sweep of Nets
A game after hauling down 13 rebounds off the bench, three behind Bismack Biyombo’s reserve record, Ibaka had 15. He also scored 27 points, which would have been a new franchise scoring mark for a reserve, except Norman Powell bested him with 29 as the team set an NBA bench mark with 100 points from the pine. Ibaka hit each of his three three-point attempts for the second game in a row and Brooklyn had no answers for him.
It was the fourth time Ibaka had scored at least 20 in a non-starting role, extending his Raptors record, and he was the first player with at least 27 and 15 off the bench since Mychal Thompson in 1988.
Ibaka collected his fifth playoff double-double as a Raptor, which tied him with Chris Bosh (who granted did it in far fewer games) and two behind Pascal Siakam, who also posted a double-double on Sunday.
Heading into Game 4, his best of the series, Toronto had already been 27.1 points per 100 possessions better with Ibaka on the floor compared to when he was on the bench against the Nets.
Ibaka even handed out eight assists in the series — many of them quite pretty helpers — against only three turnovers.
Starting centre Marc Gasol was pretty average against Brooklyn for the most part, and much more will be expected out of him in the next round against the Boston Celtics. But it’s unclear if that’s a good matchup, since Boston is small and quick. It’s quite possible that Ibaka will be called on quite a bit in what projects to be a razor-thin series.
Ibaka said post-game that Boston presents many challenges.
“We know they’re a great team. They’re playing one of the best basketball right now, and they have confidence,” he said. “We know it’s not going to be easier. We have to come to play our best basketball against them.”
The Celtics had their way with Toronto earlier this month in Orlando, with Ibaka turning in perhaps his worst game of the year, but the big man was decent-to-excellent in the other three meetings, though Boston won three of the four.
Ibaka will become an unrestricted free agent whenever this season ends, so it’s possible these are his final games as a Raptor. If that’s the case, he will have left quite the legacy with his big playoff moments. Ibaka hit some massive shots and made some huge defensive stands against the likes of Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Golden State. He’ll surely be called on again as these playoffs continue.
SIXERS FALL SHORT
When Kawhi Leonard’s miraculous four-bounce shot fell last year, the Raptors were elated to survive what would end up being their toughest series on the way to the NBA title.
With young superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, plus Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick and Tobias Harris, Philadelphia seemed to be on the verge of being a major force for years to come. But much like when the Raptors lost to the Sixers back in 2001 with the future looking so bright for Toronto before it all fell apart, Philadelphia seems poised to be going down that road too.
They meekly bowed out against Boston on Sunday, getting swept. Head coach Brett Brown is expected to be fired. Embiid has once again said he needs to be better and Simmons is trying to get healthy. Oh, and they project to have one of the biggest payrolls in league history next year, despite letting Butler and Redick go and oddly adding big man Al Horford.
Not great, Bob.
Meanwhile, Boston looks great and Jaylen Brown said after the sweep when asked if the Celtics had a better team than last year’s group that fell in five games in Round 2 to Milwaukee: “I think we’re a better team and I think we’ll prove it.”
The Sixers probably think they’re a better team than they showed too, but don’t expect them to get a chance to prove that. There will be changes coming.
In Sunday’s thrilling overtime win against Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers, young superstar Luka Doncic became only the third player with a 40-point, 15-rebound, 10-assist playoff game. Charles Barkley did it in 1993 for Phoenix, Oscar Robertson in 1963 with Cincinnati.
Doncic also joined Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kawhi and Damian Lillard as the only players to score at least 40 in a post-season game and hit a buzzer-beater, according to Basketball-reference. Only Magic Johnson posted consecutive playoff triple-doubles at a younger age than Doncic.
Oh, and Doncic did it on a severely sprained ankle.
It never made sense that three teams decided to pass on the Slovenian sensation when given the chance and it never will.
AROUND THE RIM
Paul George is not having much of a series against Dallas. He’s averaging just 15.3 points per game on 29% shooting … Toronto improved to 10-7 in potential series closeout games and now only the Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves have never swept a four-game series … NBA coach of the year Nick Nurse now has a 20-8 playoff record and will tie Dwane Casey for the team record with his next win.