Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Ball Don't Lie

Serge Ibaka says LeBron James is not a good defender, presumably after taking crazy pills

View photo


Serge Ibaka whispers something mean in LeBron James' ear. (Getty Images)

Excited for the NBA Finals? Join the BDL crew for a live Finals Chat on Twitter during Tuesday night's Game 4. We'll be cracking jokes, sharing observations and talking about the game with NBA fans like you. Participate by using the hashtag #FinalsChat, and don't forget to follow @YahooBDL for your daily NBA fix.

After popping for 17 points and 16 points in the fourth quarters of Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant struggled in the final frame of Game 3. The league's reigning scoring champion missed 4 of 6 field-goal attempts and both of his free throws in the fourth, scoring just four points in the last 12 minutes on Sunday night as his Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Miami Heat, 91-85, to give Miami a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven championship series. As the two teams went back to the drawing board on Monday to prepare for Tuesday's Game 4, an awful lot of talk centered on Durant's quiet fourth and the degree to which the defense of LeBron James influenced it.

Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, noted shot-blocker and runner-up in this year's Defensive Player of the Year balloting, thinks the answer is, "Not that much." Also, he thinks down 1-2 in the Finals is a good time to talk reckless. From Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post:

"LeBron is not a good defender," Ibaka said about the player who received the most votes for the league's all-defensive team, which is selected by the coaches.

"He can play defense for two to three minutes but not 48 minutes." [...]

"LeBron can't play (Durant) one-on-one," Ibaka said. "They're playing good defense like a team."

Appraised of Ibaka's comments on Tuesday, James reportedly offered a succinct reply: "I don't really care what he says. It's stupid."

[Marc J. Spears: Shane Battier hopes to become second of Coach K's Duke players with NBA title]

Here, courtesy of Your Man, a less succinct reply:

Way to go, Serge Ibaka! Trash talking makes everything more fun. Remember how much we liked it when Kevin Durant backed down Dwyane Wade, shot over him, then smiled and told him he was "too small"? (Of course you do. That happened literally two days ago, in Game 3.) Now we will all be like, "Oooh, intrigue!" every time Ibaka and James share the floor, and be able to laugh and smile about how great it is that two young, competitive, combative teams are willing to mix it up for our amusement. Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight!

Shrewd analysis, Serge Ibaka! Through three games, Durant has been able to score with some regularity over James. At least, that's what's Beckley Mason sees on the game tape:

The tape shows Durant is hardly struggling in one-on-one confrontations with James. In fact, James has not been able to stay in front of Durant off the dribble and Durant has also been able to shoot with relative ease because James tends to play one-on-one defense with his hands low.

Durant has missed some open shots, but for the most part he's getting the same looks he did against Battier.

What's that Jeff Van Gundy's always saying? "It's a make-or-miss league," right? For the most part, Durant's just had better luck making 'em over Battier (and, in limited action, over Wade) than he has over James.

[Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA hoping to generate more revenue with World Cup of Basketball proposal]

But wait a sec, Serge Ibaka! Not being able to defend Durant one-on-one for a full game does not mean you are not a good defender. There are plenty of excellent NBA defenders who can't guard Durant one-on-one for a full game. You know why? Because Durant is a ridiculously gifted scorer.

Want to put a standard swingman type on him? Watch as Durant uses his height, long arms and springs to shoot over the top. Want to give the assignment to a taller, rangier defender? Watch KD use his agility and quickness to blow past the bigger dude off the bounce.

Just missed a shot that led to a Thunder rebound on offense? Better look up, because that praying-mantis-shaped dude just leaked out off the wing and is speeding down the other end looking for an outlet and a transition dunk. Stay with him on the shake, guess right on every move, crowd him and get a hand in his face? Get bummed out by how his accurate shooting touch routinely enables him to knock down shots that a lot of other players just don't have in the bag.

As he gets older, stronger and develops his post game a bit more — think how Dirk Nowitzki evolved as his career progressed — there won't be anywhere on the court off-limits to Durant's scoring skill, and he's not far off that now. There's a reason he's led the league in scoring in each of the last three seasons, and it's not because every guy guarding him is bad at defense. Not being able to guard Durant one-on-one doesn't make LeBron a bad defender; it makes him human. (It might be one of the few things on a basketball court that does.)

Also, huh, Serge Ibaka? Like, LeBron literally just did capably defend KD, in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Remember? When Durant managed just four points on 2-for-6 shooting while being guarded by James? (Again: You should. That was only two days ago.)

Don't believe me? Ask ProBasketballTalk's Matt Moore:

James engaged Durant all over the court. Baseline to baseline, sideline to sideline. Durant would flash for a lob, James was there with him, step for step. Durant would cut to the wing behind a screen, James was right there, somehow avoiding the foul but getting through the screen. Durant was in the post, trying to use his length to get around James (a curious tactic given his strengths). [James] forced him to the baseline, so far he was shooting behind the basket. [...]

He guided [Durant] into Chris Bosh for a bock. He forced him out of his positions. He rendered him isolated, stranded on the Isle of LeBron, trying to find his way to the ball, points, to a victory that would not come.'s Zach Lowe saw things similarly, noting James' "incredible speed and deft positioning" (along with more of the same from Miami point guard Mario Chalmers) in forcing just enough hesitation on catch-and-shoot opportunities to turn open looks into contested jumpers and chances for quick ball movement into defended one-on-one isolation plays. Durant hit some of those one-on-one shots, because Durant's fantastic, but the Thunder's offense as a whole slowed, bogged and suffered, which was a big win for Miami. And something that doesn't happen if literally anybody else but LeBron is tracking Durant.

Plus: C'mon, Serge Ibaka. No, for real. C'mon, Serge. You are just kind of trolling, right? Well, at the risk of feeding the trolls, some disinfectant:

James held opposing power forwards and small forwards to well-below-league-average effective shooting percentages this season, limited both to pretty sound scoring marks of 17.3 points per 48 minutes this season, and allowed sub-par per-minute Player Efficiency Ratings of 14.8 and 10.3, respectively (thanks, So, guys he defended produced at worse-than-league-average levels this season.

Plus, Heat opponents posted higher field-goal and 3-point percentages, turned it over less frequently, and scored at a more efficient rate when LeBron sat than when he played (thanks,'s statistical analysis tool). The Heat's defense was still good when he was off the floor, giving up an average of 97.3 points per 100 possessions, but it was better when he was on it, at 97-per-100.

He also gave up fewer points per possession as a primary defender than Ibaka did this year (0.83 to 0.87), and allowed opponents to score on a significantly lower percentage of possessions (36.5 percent to 41 percent) than Serge (thanks, Synergy Sports Technology)? And he edged Ibaka in defensive rating — an estimate of how many points an individual defender allows per 100 possessions — by one point-per-100 (thanks,

Basically, any way you look at it, there's not really very much support for Serge Ibaka saying that LeBron James isn't a good defender. He is good. He's really good. Very legitimately deserving of being named to the league's top All-Defensive team four straight times, and of being the leading vote-getter this year. Fewer crazy pills for Serge Ibaka, please.

Related NBA Finals news from Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:

Dan Wetzel: Jerry Sandusky's defense bolstered by tape establishing police led an accuser's statement
Pat Forde: With an eye on a record Olympic medal haul, Michael Phelps will enter seven events at U.S. swim trials
Tiger Woods opens as the favorite in Vegas to win the British Open
Y! Screen: Baseball player excels despite being deaf

View Comments (753)

Recommended for You

  • Former CB Brian Baucham Sues USC and Lane Kiffin

    Former USC Trojans' cornerback Brian Baucham is suing the university and ex-coach Lane Kiffin, according to an Associated Press report. In the September 2012 game, Brian Baucham collapsed during the second half and was taken to the hospital by an ambulance. Baucham hadn't played in USC's previous…

    SB Nation
  • Mark Cuban made comments about the NFL six months ago and he was right

    Peter King of Sports Illustrated looks back at the comments from Maverick owner Mark Cuban about the future of the NFL. ESPN's Marc Stein has a great write up about the premiere of the Berlin Tall's new movie.

    SB Nation
  • Rumor Roundup (Sept. 23, 2014): Sting, Austin Aries, Cesaro and the future of the Bellas

    Speculating on the rumors surrounding pro wrestling is a favored pastime of many fans, perhaps second only to actually watching the matches. In this daily column, we take a look at the latest rumors being churned out by the pro wrestling rumor mill. None of this has been confirmed as legitimate…

    SB Nation
  • DeSean Jackson doesn't realize the Washington Redskins lost to the Eagles

    Apparently Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson did not realize his team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. Yeah, Jackson scored, he taunted Eagles players and fans, and he got his 'revenge' on this play. Check the scoreboard, DeSean.

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Washington34 - 37Philadelphia
    Game Recap
  • View

    Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti faces the media (11 photos)

    All of the parties involved in the Ray Rice elevator-assault scandal are being called to account for their actions, or inactions, and the Baltimore Ravens, Rice's now-former team, are now in the spotlight. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti held a press conference

    Yahoo Sports
    Sun, Sep 21
    Baltimore23 - 21Cleveland
    Game Recap
  • Marshawn Lynch gives rare interview, and it's great

    Lynch joined "The Barbershop" on 710 ESPN Monday night to talk about his foundation "Family First," this season with the Seahawks, and a little bit of everything else. If you listen to one thing today, make it this interview. A fun, interesting

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Denver20 - 26Seattle
    Game Recap
  • Shutdown Corner NFL Power Rankings: Taking stock of the 3-0 teams

    We're down to three undefeated teams after just three weeks. And the three undefeateds are far from flawless. The Bengals are the best of the group. Their offense has been diverse, especially with quarterback Andy Dalton playing well and running back

    Shutdown Corner
  • Floyd Mayweather Jr. needs to own hypocrisy, treat his fighters like he treats himself

    The five members of the Nevada Athletic Commission would be well advised to do a search of the Internet and read Floyd Mayweather's own words from May 1, 2012, as they question him Tuesday. Chairman Francisco Aguilar ordered Mayweather, not only the world's best pound-for-pound boxer but the owner…

    Yahoo Sports
  • Report: Steelers signing James Harrison after losing Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones

    In order to bolster their linebacking depth, the Pittsburgh Steelers are signing former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a convincing 37-19 win over the Carolina Panther on Sunday, but it was costly. Jarvis Jones was placed on IR-Recall after suffering a…

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Tennessee7 - 33Cincinnati
    Game Recap
  • GIF: Brock Lesnar Curb Stomped by Seth Rollins at WWE Night of Champions 2014

    At some point or another it was decided that the finish to the Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena rematch at Night of Champions on Sept. 21, 2014, in Nashville, Tennessee would feature a run-in from Seth Rollins. It was also decided that Lesnar, vulnerable thanks to Cena spamming finishers for the last 10…

    SB Nation
  • Wayne Simmonds was ejected because his opponent was too slow

    Wayne Simmonds was kicked out of the third period against the Leafs on Monday night in the preseason opener. Korbinian Holzer of the Maple Leafs was really not alright with the above hit from Wayne Simmonds during the third period of the Flyers game against Toronto on Monday night. Simmonds gave…

    SB Nation
  • Gerald Wallace's contract is like a lottery ticket for the Boston Celtics

    Gerald Wallace was stoic last season. Wallace's three-year, $30.3 million contract was criticized by Celtics fans in a Bill Simmons piece published on Grantland. Eric in Springfield, Massachusetts: "Instead of a jersey number, could the Celtics convince Wallace to wear all the first-rounders we got…

    SB Nation
  • Play

    LeBron & CP3 -- Train Together By Day ... Party Together By Night

    Work hard, play hard ... that's the way it was for LeBron James and Chris Paul Sunday -- who hit the gym together during the day and the CLUB together at night. LeBron and CP3 spent their Sunday training at the gym at UCLA with Bron's Cleveland Cavs teammate Tristan Thompson ... and even posted a…

  • What's Your Definition of Success?

    Success means different things for different people, that’s why we’ve started “The Success Project”.

  • Darnell Dockett has tickets for Cardinals fan getting in a brawl with 49ers fans

    Sunday was kind of a wild day at the 49ers-Cardinals game. Aside from just the loss, 49ers and Cardinals fans got into a nasty brawl in the stands. It's a really nasty fight, with quite a bit of blood on the ground as the fight wrapped up. It seemed

    SB Nation
  • Undertaker rumors of poor health seemingly debunked by his wife, Michelle McCool

    Over the weekend, a weird rumor started making the rounds that Undertaker is in poor health or bad shape or whatever other term you want to use to signify someone is not doing well physically. The source for this was, apparently, Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst, who reportedly dedicated a song…

    SB Nation
  • Diamondbacks to name new GM Thursday

    The Diamondbacks' search for a new head honcho seems to be coming to an end. The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be nearing a decision on who their new general manager will be, as USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that the club plans to announce their choice on Thursday. Per Nightengale, former…

    SB Nation
    Tue, Sep 23
    5:10 PM PDT
    Arizona at Minnesota
    Preview Game
  • Frank Gore almost speechless with disappointment following 49ers loss

    49ers running back Frank Gore met with the media after the 49ers Week 3 loss. San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore spoke with the media following Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and he was almost speechless. Gore was asked about his limited use (6 carries in the game).

    SB Nation
  • Man Told to Sell Lamborghini Golf Cart or Lose Wife

    RELATED: See photos of another great Lamborghini from 1999 – the Diablo GTR The 36-volt Lamborghini golf cart comes fitted with leather seats, which he confirms he will be sure to fart on as much as possible, as well an auxiliary charger, spare seat, manual, spare parts, and a headrest, which he…

  • AARP® Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford

    Over 50? Your driving experience could save you $404* on Auto Insurance.

    AdChoicesThe HartfordSponsored
  • Gareth Bale kicks the ball at Luka Modric's face

    You know what hurts more than seeing Gareth Bale and Luka Modric scoring amazing goals and winning trophies like we always hoped they would do for Tottenham Hotspur? Watching them turn on each other. GARETH BALE KICKED THE BALL AT LUKA MODRIC'S

    SB Nation