By BEN JOHNSON
Kolby was MIA today, so I got the call out of the bullpen. Here’s my take on Game 3 between Oklahoma City and Memphis...
1. Ibaka is gun shy
Kevin Durant set Serge Ibaka up with a perfect bounce pass. Ibaka had a point-blank dunk staring him in the face.
What did Ibaka do?
He clanged the ball off the back of the iron, and Oklahoma City failed to score on a possession early in the first quarter.
From that point on, Ibaka was as passive as can be on offense. (He had one good take to the rim in the fourth quarter, but that was it.)
It's a direct result of his first two dreadful games of the series.
Ibaka has zero — yes, zero — confidence in his game right now.
Exhibit A came moments after his missed slam. Ibaka had a wide-open look at the elbow and decided to pass almost directly behind him to Durant, who had no shot whatsoever.
It would be awfully nice if Ibaka would realize his importance with Russell Westbrook out during the postseason. Air Congo should be doling out 20 points and 12 to 13 rebounds a game, but he's content with 10 and six.
Ibaka had 13 points and 10 boards in Game 3. It was quite possibly the weakest double-double effort of all time.
The good news for Thunder fans was that Ibaka at least asserted himself on defense and finished with four blocked shots, including a block of Jerryd Bayless in the fourth quarter that ignited a fast break for the Thunder and ended with a Reggie Jackson layup.
But Ibaka's inefficiencies on offense cast big shadows over everything else.
2. Reggie Jackson may be the next James Harden
OK, Jackson isn't going to grow an insane beard and muscle his way to the rim like Harden did. But — stay with me — Jackson could become the Thunder's best scoring option not known as Durant and Westbrook.
Heading into this offseason, the question was: what to do with Kevin Martin?
It's easy now. Let him go.
Jackson can now be molded into Harden's old role. He has the take-it-to-the-rim-and-score capability that goes along with playing alongside Durant and Westbrook.
Honestly, the only thing Jackson needs to learn at this point is patience. He plays at about 600 mph, but once he learns to play within himself, he could become the league's next best sixth man.
Worried about rebounding? Don't be. Jackson had double-digit rebounds for OKC in Game 3.
He can score and rebound. He's got the tools to be really, really good in this league.
3. Free throws aren't always free
It's rare that Oklahoma City doesn't capitalize at the free-throw line. Yet that was the case at the FedEx Forum on Saturday.
The Thunder was 12 of 19 (63.2 percent) from the stripe, and Durant was 5 of 9.
Very uncharacteristic on both fronts.
Now the Thunder are trailing in a playoff series for the first time this season.
It was over when... Mike Conley buried two free throws with 15.5 seconds left. Conley's free throws were the icing on the cake after Durant missed two free throws and Derek Fisher missed a 32-foot 3-point attempt.
Quote of the night: "He is out of sorts right now." - Thunder radio voice Matt Pinto when Ibaka missed a point-blank layup in the third quarter.
— Ben Johnson, Press sports editor