Vrska answers what-ifs about Thunder season
With the NBA Finals starting tonight, Thunder fans in Oklahoma are definitely thinking "What if?"
It's a question every fan tackles after his or her team is knocked out of the playoffs and sent home for the, in this case, summer.
None of the answers ever seem to satisfy the person that asks the question because ultimately, it doesn't matter since it's impossible to change the past.
But we can still talk about them, right? We're going to attempt to answer a few of the questions we've heard Thunder fans asking since the San Antonio Spurs knocked OKC out on Saturday.
What if OKC had Ibaka all series?
This is perhaps the most interesting question because of how well the Thunder played with the big man in the middle. After getting violently run out of the gym in Games 1 and 2, OKC did a great job throwing it right back in San Antonio's face when Serge Ibaka returned in Game 3.
Having No. 9 in the paint to protect the rim revived the Thunder team fans had been watching all season: getting out in transition and hammering down some dunks.
The reason Ibaka matters so much to Oklahoma City is because none of the other three big men are athletic or savvy enough to protect the rim. They can't get up as high or as quick as Ibaka and they don't have the feel for help defense that Ibaka does.
The Spurs, much like the New England Patriots, exploited that massive deficiency in the first two games, and since the initial diagnosis was that Ibaka was done for the season, a quick series looked likely.
Then he returned allowing the perimeter defenders, namely Russell Westbrook, to start gambling for steals again because since they knew Ibaka was back there, they could make mistakes. More gambling for steals leads to more steals and more buckets. The Spurs cannot hang with OKC when its able to run.
It's really difficult to argue that having Ibaka wouldn't have changed one of the first two games especially since OKC was in San Antonio's head, as many of the Spurs readily admitted. But the Spurs won those games by 17 and 35 points. Nobody, not even LeBron James, can make up 35 points in a single game.
At best OKC would have split the first two.