Now that the season has come to an end for the Toronto Raptors, we’re taking the next week to grade how each key player on this season’s team performed in the playoffs, from Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam to Norman Powell and Marc Gasol.
Next up: Serge Ibaka.
Impactful – that’s how Ibaka’s 2020 NBA Playoffs run could be described.
At 30 years old, Ibaka made the absolute most with the minutes he was given. There were times he showed flashes of “Serge Iblocka” from his Oklahoma City Thunder days. There were also times he scored at the rate he did in his OKC days.
Ibaka started the playoffs with 22 points and seven rebounds in Game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets, but that was far from his best performance of the series. The veteran centre was essential in Games 3 and 4, helping the Raptors close out their first sweep in franchise history.
He had his first double-double of the postseason in Game 3, going for 20 points and 13 rebounds. When you wondered if he could repeat that showing, he delivered an even more impressive stat line with 27 points and 15 rebounds in the team’s historic Game 4 win.
Ibaka’s 19 points at the half, which he did on an almost perfect 9-for-10 shooting from the field, led the Raptors to their highest-scoring half in a playoff game in franchise history (77 points). His 27 points at the game’s end marked the second-best on the team en route to two more impressive records: the most points in a playoff game in franchise history (150) and, even more remarkably, adding to the team’s 100 bench points, the most by a team in any game in NBA history.
In Toronto’s Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Boston Celtics, Ibaka was a huge difference-maker at times.
He gave the Celtics defence some trouble in Games 1 and 2, but after a non-existent Game 3, Serge put forth his best performance of the series in Game 4 to help the Raptors even the series.
Ibaka went for 18 points, seven rebounds and one block, going 7-for-9 from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. His pick-and-pop shooting gave Boston’s defence fits and even earned the respect of Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, who admitted to switching up his game plan because of Ibaka’s impact.
Ibaka would play through an ankle injury in Games 6 and 7, but Raptors head coach Nick Nurse’s decision to go with a small ball lineup limited the big man’s playing time. He would still score in double figures in the final two contests of the series while adding a paint presence on defence and on the glass, so it bodes the question of whether or not Nurse made the right decision to cut his minutes.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but it’s hard to believe Ibaka couldn’t have made an impact down the stretch of either of those games.
Regardless, it was a quality postseason by the veteran big man who averaged 14.8 points off the bench – the most of any reserve on the team – while acting as the team’s most efficient scorer, shooting 57.3% from the field, 51.1% from 3 and 100% from the free throw line.
Ibaka also led all Raptors in rebounds (7.7) and blocks (1.3) per game, and his 14 total rejections helped him climb into the top-10 all-time in playoff blocks.
With Ibaka being an unrestricted free agent this offseason, it could potentially be the final playoff run we see of him in a Raptors jersey.
If that is the case, the NBA champion certainly made his impact felt on this franchise forever.
Playoff Grade: B+
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