Just what an already-intriguing NBA Finals needed: A war of words between two key players. LeBron James means far more to the Miami Heat than forward Serge Ibaka to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But that does not take away from the spice those two added to tonight’s Game 4 in Miami.
Ibaka, one of the league’s premier defensive players took on James and all the adulation he has received for OKC’s Kevin Durant scoring just four points in the fourth quarter of Game 3 Sunday.
“LeBron can’t play (Durant) one-on-one,” Ibaka told the Palm Beach Post. “They’re playing good defense like a team.”
Not exactly a stinging indictment; Durant, after all, is the NBA’s three-time scoring leader. But adding this forced a response from James: “He’s not a good defender. . . “He can play defense for two or three minutes but not 48 minutes.”
James did not care for that last part.
“I don’t really care what he says, he’s stupid,” James said. “Everyone says something to me every series then (the media) tries to get a quote. It’s stupid.”
In addition to the rest of the Finals, James and Ibaka will likely face off this summer in the London Olympics. Ibaka plays for the Spanish National Team, expected to be the most serious challenger to Team USA’s bid to repeat as gold medalists.
The Heat have been rotating defenders on Durant, who is averaging 31 points on 57 percent shooting in the series, but James was his primary defender in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s 91-85 Game 3 victory on Sunday. Durant was 1-of-5 shooting in the quarter with James guarding him.
“For me as a defender, I just try to make plays and try to keep my body in front of a great player,” James said. “First of all I’m not playing 48 minutes and Kevin’s not playing 48 minutes. I’m not guarding him for 48 minutes. When I’m on him, I’m just trying to make it tough for him to make shots, which he’s going to make.”