It’s a recurring theme within Toronto Raptors fandom; Serge on two days of rest is a force to be reckoned with. The consensus for this NBA playoffs amongst the Raptors community was that Ibaka, being given at least a days rest and convenient travel scheduling, would step his game up and really show his true worth to the Toronto Raptors after an average regular season.
Serge showed up in a blaze for the Toronto Raptors in their first tilt against the Washington Wizards, going for 23 points, 12 boards, and 2 blocks against John Wall and company. At first, Raptors fans felt vindicated. This is the third-option the Raptors have needed, a necessary outlet and capable support in the event Lowry or Derozan can’t turn it on. Yet in subsequent games, Ibaka put on some less than impressive displays.
Turnovers plagued Ibaka’s nights in Washington. Poor passing and almost a stone-like touch in the post led to almost immediate loss of the ball. Add that to a number of forced shots, Ibaka didn’t post a positive PER after the Raps’ second game at the ACC. Perhaps his only saving grace, was his ability to switch on to Wizards wings and challenge their pace with his length and positioning while defending the drive.
Needless to say, Ibaka needs to provide more for the Raptors to take down the King and his merry men. Ibaka is going to see plenty of shifts guarding LeBron James. Between him, OG, and Siakam the Toronto Raptors need to see some productivity on the defensive end. But involving Ibaka on the offensive end is key to his success.
Serge has shown himself as capable a roll-man as he is a pop-man. Finishing at the rim off one dribble or putting up open threes is his specialty. Where Ibaka sees difficulty is when he’s asked to create for himself. Sure, he can sometimes face-up and drain an open mid-range jimmy, but that is not an enviable situation. The same way Lowry and Derozan feed JV to keep him active on the defensive end, the Raptors duo need to create for Ibaka’s success to limit his tendency to force shots when it isn’t working for him.
Serge Ibaka, Samuel Soba, Mafuzzy, whoever dons the number 9 jersey for the Toronto Raptors against the Cleveland Cavaliers in this 2018 NBA Playoff second round needs to produce. LeBron will get his, but at the end of the day Ibaka needs to be an important third or fourth piece that can challenge the Cavs on both ends of the ACC.