NORMAN — Serge Ibaka isn't known for hitting clutch shots. In his short career in the NBA, those were always handled by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Yet Monday, Ibaka found himself in a position to hit a game-tying shot that would have sent Oklahoma City’s game with Houston into overtime. Unfortunately for him, his attempted put-back of Reggie Jackson’s missed shot was handled too gingerly.
The ball never made it over the lip of the rim, the buzzer sounded and Ibaka fell to his back in horror as the Rockets won 105-103 to avoid being swept out of the first round.
“I wanted to do my best to save my team,” Ibaka said. “It happened. I can’t control the emotion. It happens sometimes.”
It made for a long night for Ibaka.
“It was tough, it was tough. It happened and it was tough for me. It was my first time to be in that position. I didn’t sleep last night, man. It’s a great experience to go through that. Like I said, it’s my first time to be in that position. So now I know how it feels. Now I will move on. Good thing about it. We have one more game (today).”
The Thunder and Rockets hook up at 8:30 p.m. today for Game 5 of their best-of-seven series at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. With Oklahoma City leading 3-1, they have a chance to close out Houston with a victory and move on to the next round.
However, Ibaka knows his squad has to be more aggressive than what it showed in the last game.
“The focus is to be aggressive,” Ibaka said. “We need to be aggressive (today) and do a better job of controlling the ball on offense and stopping them. They had a lot of easy baskets in the paint.”