Preps Talk

Ibaka's offensive rhythm bad news for rest of NBA

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Ibaka's offensive rhythm bad news for rest of NBA

Serge Ibaka is beginning to find his rhythm on offense, and thats bad news for the rest of the NBA.

The 6-foot-10 power forward, who scored 14 or more points in just 11 of 66 games last year, has now done so in three straight for the Thunder after a 21-point effort in a 97-91 win over the Bulls Thursday night.

Ibaka wasted no time getting going against Chicago, scoring nine points in the first quarter, including three made baskets in successive possessions midway through the opening period.

He even hit a 3-pointer, his first of the season and third of his career, to help the Thunder stay close to a Bulls team that shot nearly 58 percent in the first quarter.

Guys can get hot, especially if theyre getting a number of shots up, Taj Gibson said. We were closing out to him, but he got an easy-going pace real early the way his jump shot was flowing early, and he just played a phenomenal game.

Ibaka has always had the talent offensively -- he averaged 9.1 points per game last year -- and range to hit from 15-feet out, but the last two years has had to pick and choose his scoring opportunities wisely while watching Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant go to work.

It seems this year may be different. James Harden is gone, and while Kevin Martin replaces Harden in the sixth man role, it feels as though Ibaka can be the third scorer in Oklahoma City. He attempted 15 shots, one off his career-high, and has now attempted at least seven shots in all five games. His 10.2 shot attempts per game in 2012 is well-above his 6.6 attempts-per-game average entering the season.

He said extra work in the gym on his offensive game this offseason has paid dividends, and people are beginning to notice.

My teammates did a great job finding me, trusting me and getting me the ball when I was open because they know I work on my shot any time during practice, Ibaka said. I keep working in practice and I keep showing my teammates and coaches I can do it. Thats why it gives me confidence.

Ibakas offensive night didnt take away anything from his defense, either. He still managed to grab nine rebounds and block four shots in 37 minutes, helping to hold the Bulls to 34 points in the paint.

In his fourth season in the NBA, Ibaka is still just 23 years old. That talent as a complete player is starting to round out at the perfect time for the Thunder, as they continue to try and mesh without Harden. If Ibaka continues to shoot like he has been through five games, that transition period should go much smoother.

He didnt do much in the second and third quarters, but stayed efficient by scoring six points of 2-of-4 shooting and grabbing three offensive rebounds. He then proceeded to score four points in the final quarter on 1-of-2 shooting (and two free throws), capping off a brilliant night as a No. 3 scorer against a feisty Bulls front court.

He can score around the basket and he can score around the perimeter, he can even shoot 3s, head coach Scott Brooks said. Serge is a good player. Hes not only a defensive guy, he can score.

NBC Sports Chicago's 100 Days to Kickoff

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USA Today

NBC Sports Chicago's 100 Days to Kickoff

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

In case you missed any of our previews, here is our rundown:

100. De La Salle

99. Crystal Lake South

98. Eisenhower

97. Back of the Yards

96. Jacobs

95. Waubonsie Valley

94. Kaneland

93. West Aurora

93 Days to Kickoff: West Aurora

93 Days to Kickoff: West Aurora

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: West Aurora

Head coach: Nate Eimer

Assistant coaches: Tony Melchiori, DC Bob Fowler, DL Patrick Stremel, LB Charlie Graves, DB Mike Runge, OL Joe Howell, RB Ron Murphy and QB Alex Shaw

How they fared in 2017: 7-3 (4-1 Upstate Eight Valley Conference). West Aurora made the IHSA Class 8A playoff field last season. The Blackhawks lost to Naperville Central 35-14 in opening round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Larkin

Aug. 31 @ West Chicago

Sept. 7 vs Streamwood

Sept. 14 @ Glenbard East

Sept. 21 vs Bartlett

Sept. 28 vs Glenbard South

Oct. 5 @ Elgin

Oct. 12 vs East Aurora

Oct. 19 vs South Elgin

[MORE: 94 Days to Kickoff - Kaneland]

Biggest storyline: Game 11. Can the Blackhawks get back to the IHSA state playoffs for the fourth straight season and then advance past the opening round?

Names to watch this season: QB Will Tammaru, RB/DB JaQuan Buchanan and DT Denver Warren

Biggest holes to fill: The Blackhawks welcome back an impressive 17 starters (nine offense, eight defense) to the mix. However, the group will be a bit inexperienced in some spots on both the offensive and defensive line.  

EDGY's Early Take: The Blackhawks' turnaround under head coach Nate Eimer and staff has been a terrific story to follow. That said, the bar for West Aurora football has also been raised. No longer are they satisfied by just "getting" to state. The Blackhawks welcome back a deep group on both sides of the football led by a potentially high powered, balanced offense. On paper, this team has the makings of being one of the better Blackhawks teams in their history. They will challenge for the Upstate Eight conference title and get another shot at the Class 8A playoff field.