Wednesday, Nov. 16 – Raptors at Celtics
Pregame – C’s Hope to Slow Down the Surge of Ibaka
BOSTON – Superstar forward Kawhi Leonard has garnered most of the attention surrounding Toronto’s league-best 12-3 start, making it easy to overlook the outstanding season that Raptors big man Serge Ibaka is having.
The Boston Celtics will be sure not to make that mistake when they host Toronto Friday night, knowing that Ibaka will punish them if they do.
While many opposing defenses have set their sights on Toronto’s new transcendent star, Ibaka has flown under the radar to a career-high 17.4 points per game. He’s played an unpredictable role, starting in nine of his 14 appearances, but he’s made the most of his 26.6 minutes per contest, while also contributing 8.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
“Whether he starts or comes off the bench, I think he’s been really good all year,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens observed ahead of the 7 p.m. tip-off at TD Garden. “I would say he’s been probably even more in the paint in the last couple of years. He’s rolling, he’s posting, he’s rebounding, he’s doing all those things that really make you pay for switching. He’s had a great start to his year.”
The most impressive part about Ibaka’s start to the season has been his efficiency. He’s shot 57.6 percent on 12.6 field goal attempts per game. No other player in the league has shot that accurately while shooting at such a high volume.
At one point, over a two-game stretch, Ibaka connected on 18 consecutive shot attempts, marking the longest string of made field goals since Wilt Chamberlain canned 25 straight over a four-game stretch in 1967.
Ibaka should be challenged Friday night going up against an All-Defensive center in Al Horford, but he’s looking forward to the test.
“Playing against him is going to help me to play my best,” said Ibaka, who logged 21 points and six rebounds during the first matchup of the season, which ended 113-101 in favor of the Raptors. “I have to focus on knowing I’m playing against an All-Star, and that’s the beauty of playing against one of the best.”
Horford and the C’s will certainly have to play at their best, too, as they look to slow down the sudden surge of Ibaka Friday night, while defending their home court.
– Taylor Snow
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