Serge Ibaka makes big impact in Oakland

Toronto Raptors post player Serge Ibaka, seen in a file photo, made his 131st NBA career playoff appearance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday. KEITH ALLISON / CC BY-SA 2.0

In the amount of time that it takes to say his given name — Sergeballu LaMu Sayonga Loom Walahas Jonas Hugo Ibaka (commonly known as Serge Ibaka) — the Toronto Raptors veteran big can produce a handful of game-changing plays.

For Serge Ibaka, it always starts with effort. Maximum effort.

The 6-foot-10 defensive stalwart has been making a big impact for playoff teams since entering the NBA in 2009.

As a rookie, he swatted seven shots for the Oklahoma City Thunder in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on April 20, 2010.

On April 27, 2011, the Republic of Congo native rejected nine shots in a playoff contest against the Denver Nuggets.

On May 16, 2012, it was more of the same: He blocked seven shots for OKC against the Los Angeles Lakers.

On April 24, 2013, Big Serge swatted six Houston Rockets shots for the Thunder.

He joined the Toronto Raptors before the 2017-18 season, adding toughness and moxie to the frontline.

Ibaka’s impact

This postseason, Serge Ibaka has come off the bench in all 22 games, including the Raptors’ 105-92 Game 4 road victory on Friday over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Ibaka put 20 points on the board in 21-plus minutes. He finished with a plus-11 rating. He picked up five fouls. He was 9-for-12 from the field, including 1 of 1 on 3-point shots. In addition, he corralled four rebounds and blocked two shots.

In Game 3, he rejected six shots as Toronto won by a 14-point margin, taking a 2-1 series lead.

Defensive presence

Yes, Kawhi Leonard garners the most attention on this team. But this much is also clear: Ibaka is a big part of the team’s engine.

Or as teammate Kyle Lowry stated on Friday: “When Serge is effective defensively is when he’s at his best.”

Looking back on Game 4, Raptors coach Nick Nurse commended Ibaka for using his athleticism and energy, both of which impacted the game.

“Yeah, you know, once he gets into the series, which he did in Game 3, with the blocked shots and the rebounding and stuff, he seems to stay in the series,” Nurse told reporters at Oracle Arena.

“He was great tonight, man, and it’s kind of all — he usually gives you all of it. Once he starts blocking a couple shots and the offense comes and the rebounding comes and a putback here and there, and even his jump shot seems to come once he gets into the game defensively with a blocked shot or two.”

In other words, Game 3 was vintage Serge Ibaka. His Game 4 effort was vital for the Raptors, too.