By Randy Renner
As we further explore the match-up between the Thunder and the Spurs beginning on Monday night we've collected some of the numbers that could have a major impact on the series or at least give you an idea of where the trends are and what the keys might be.
Serge Ibaka's injury should have a dramatic impact on the Thunder's defense, especially at the rim but probably also out on the perimeter. The impact at the rim should be obvious with Ibaka's shot blocking prowess and his ability to alter shots and even force teams away from what they usually do down there.
In fact during the regular season the Spurs shot just 46.6 percent from within five feet against the Thunder when Ibaka was on the floor and 63.6 percent when he wasn't. Overall the Spurs shot 42.3 percent against the Thunder in the regular season with Ibaka protecting the rim and 51.4 percent when Serge was on the bench.
Out on the perimeter Ibaka's presence or absence was felt too. With Ibaka providing rim protection so that perimeter defenders could aggressively closeout on shooters without worrying about that shooter then stepping past and going inside the Spurs shot just 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. with Ibaka off the floor the Spurs hit 54.2 percent of their long balls.
Some other numbers of note...
- The Thunder are the only one of the final four teams left in the playoffs not in the top 3 in 3-point shooting. The Spurs are first, OKC is 13th at 33.2 percent.
- Oklahoma City leads the postseason in average fast break points per game at 16.7 but the Thunder are dead last in the playoffs in turnovers forced averaging just 11.1 per 100 possessions.
- How important is Russell Westbrook to the Thunder's point production in the playoffs? Very. With Russ on the floor the Thunder is averaging 111.4 points per 100 possessions and with Westbrook on the bench that number drops to just 93.4 points per 100. The differential of 18 points is the highest among all players on the four remaining teams.
- Reggie Jackson's impact in the regular season games against the Spurs was nothing short of amazing. San Antonio can't contend with Westbrook and this season couldn't contend with Jackson either. Reggie averaged 21.3 points against the Spurs, his best average by far against any team.
- As we noted earlier, Ibaka's defense will be sorely missed but without Ibaka some Thunder five man units might just be able to outscore the Spurs. With Ibaka off the floor in the regular season, the Spurs scored a whopping 120.8 points per 100 possessions but during that same time when Ibaka was on the bench the Thunder scored 134 points per 100 possessions.
- And as good as Ibaka's defense has been against San Antonio Kendrick Perkins has also dominated down low against them. In one-on-one match-ups against Tim Duncan, Perkins held him to just 5-for-18 shooting (27.8 percent).
So there are some of the numbers that could impact this series. One thing that can't be measured is the attitude the Thunder will bring now that they will be playing without Ibaka in the starting lineup since the trade that sent Jeff Green out of OKC's starting power forward spot and on to Boston, bring Perkins here.
Ibaka missed just one regular season game this year and has missed just three over the last three seasons. So while the Thunder have gotten accustomed to adversity, dealing with injuries to Westbrook, Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha, they have always done so with Ibaka on the floor.
Now that changes, Ibaka won't even be with his teammates in San Antonio, the Thunder preferring him to stay in Oklahoma City and continue receiving treatment on his strained calf.
But you get the feeling the Thunder are prepared to play without their leading rebounder and third leading scorer.
You just get the feeling that someone will step in and step up.
Someone will have to.