Serge Ibaka‘s status for game three stands as one of the very few advantages that the Oklahoma City Thunder hold over the San Antonio Spurs at the moment. The fact that the cloudy injury status of a key player, and the gamesmanship that goes along with it, is the only thing the Thunder have going for them says a lot about how the 2014 Western Conference Finals have gone so far.
Kevin Durant might be telling the truth and he might be playing it coy. Whatever the case may be, the superstar forward says that the Thunder are preparing for game three with the assumption that Ibaka will not be available (quotes from Pro Basketball Talk):
“I don’t know what his status is. I’ve heard some stuff, but I don’t know. But we’re preparing like he’s not playing because that’s what he said before we started the series. We’ve all got to dig deep ourselves and figure out what we have to do, and I think guys have done a great job the last few days.”
These quotes should be taken for what they are, of course. It’s not as if Durant would come out and say it if Ibaka was going to play. Nevertheless, it does sound like the uncertainty about Ibaka, who is officially listed as “day to day,” extends to the Thunder players themselves.
If Ibaka plays and is able to make meaningful contributions, it will be a huge boost to Oklahoma City on both ends of the floor. Besides the team’s laughable inability to defend the rim without Ibaka, they are sorely lacking a third offensive option when he isn’t out there. Then again, the dominance the Spurs have shown might prove to be too much even if Ibaka returns.