NORMAN — OKLAHOMA CITY -- Playing with the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, it would be hard to get any recognition. That has been the plight of Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka over the last few years.
However, there are those night’s when Ibaka’s performance even outshines his all-star teammates. That was the case Friday in the Thunder’s 116-94 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Ibaka racked up 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots in only 30 minutes of action.
“When you have a 7-foot guy who can jump and run back on defense on the fast break, it’s hard to get to the basket,” Pelican’s guard Austin Rivers said of Ibaka. “There defense is all on him. Without Ibaka, this is a whole different team.”
The Thunder (58-21) now need one more win or a loss by the Los Angeles Clippers to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They can wrap it up Sunday when they face the struggling Indiana Pacers on the road. San Antonio has locked up the top-seed.
Durant scored 27 points and shot 10-of-18 to go with six rebounds and five assists. Westbrook added 24 points and seven assists. It was the second game in a row the team had all its starters back in the lineup.
“It feels good,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Every coach in this league wants to have all their players healthy. It gives yourself the best chance to win. It’s nice to have everybody back. I thought Perk (Kendrick Perkins) and Thabo (Sefolosha) have done a great job.”
Rivers and Darius Miller led the Pelicans (32-47) with 18 points each. Forward Tyreke Evans scored 13 before leaving with an injury in the second half. Alexis Ajinca added 12 points and newly acquired forward James Southerland scored 10 in his debut.