During the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s 108-104 victory over their Western Conference rivals the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday afternoon, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (16 points, three rebounds, three blocks) was assessed a flagrant-one foul for striking Clippers star Blake Griffin (20 points, nine rebounds, give assists) below the belt.
The incident took place with 1:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, right after Matt Barnes hit a three-pointer to bring Los Angeles to within three points, 99-96.
Ibaka explained after the game that he had no intention of hurting Griffin, and that he was simply trying to secure his position down low.
“He hit my hands away,” Ibaka told reporters afterward. “He’s strong, so when he grabs you, your jersey or whatever, and you try to defend yourself and rebound. So maybe you can do some move, not to hurt, (but) just to get good position, but then something happens where you get hurt in the paint. It’s not anything where I want to try to hurt him. I’m not that kind of person. I just try to play hard, and that’s it.
“I just tried to play hard. I really don’t care if someone is dirty or not, that’s not my problem. His game was intense. We all were complaining to the referees (about) some dirty stuff. It’s basketball. We just played. If you can see the replay, you can see he grabbed my jersey first so I wanted to try to defend myself, (but) not to hurt him.” (NewsOK)
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (two points, eight rebounds, four assists) threw in his own two cents on the apparent low blow.
“I didn’t see it to where it was like that flagrant,” Perkins told USA Today. “He (Griffin) took (Ibaka’s) arm and knocked him down. The dude (Griffin) is known for flopping anyway, so that’s what it is. I was (angry). The (Clippers’) reaction after that was kind of like Serge Ibaka against Blake Griffin.
“He (Ibaka) ain’t going to get the benefit of (the doubt) or what’s really happening down there. You ain’t seeing all the stuff that other people are doing. Serge ends up getting the bad end of the stick. I didn’t like the whole thing — period. I thought it should’ve been a double-foul.”(NewsOk)
Griffin didn’t seem at all angry with Serge when asked about the play in question.
“I guess it’s a chippy game like that every time we play. We’re both pretty physical teams with physical bigs. There was a lot of pushing and all that going on down low.” (NewsOk)
Should Serge Ibaka be suspended for the hit?
After watching the replay closely, it appears that Ibaka looks at the area, raises his arm and strikes Blake, right after lifting his head and looking at the basket.
Whether it was malicious or not, it certainly looked like he knew what he was doing. I don’t believe that it’s just a matter of two big bodies getting physical in the paint.
At the very least, Ibaka should be suspended one game for what he did. No more, no less. A fine won’t suffice.
Just on the mere fact that it appeared to be intentional should be enough for league officials to punish Serge.