The Thunder rank second among all playoff teams in blocks and steals per game while allowing its opponents to shoot 43.4 percent from the field.
Opponents are intimidated from going to the rim simply because of the presence of forward Serge Ibaka.
The runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting has continued his stellar play, totaling more blocked shots than personal fouls this post season.
For the second straight season, Ibaka led the league in total blocks, swatting 3.7 per game during the regular season, the highest block average of any player since the 2000-01 season.
Three times he turned away 10 or more shot attempts during the regular season and in the playoffs, he has swatted at least one shot in all 15 games.
Not only has the Thunder excelled against the toughest possible path to the NBA Finals, sweeping the defending champion Mavericks, eliminating the perennial threat of the Lakers and dominating San Antonio, a team that won 20 straight before elimination.
Ibaka has been the defensive catalyst and reliable offensive threat to counter the strong point of the Thunder’s opposition.
Faced with the task of guarding Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan, a trio with a combined 28 All-Star appearances, Ibaka has allowed his opponent to shoot over 50 percent just four times in 15 games.
While his opponents have struggled from the field, Ibaka has shot less than 50 percent five times and is connecting on 55.6 percent of his attempts.
During a critical Game 4 against San Antonio, with his team down 1-2, Ibaka played a flawless game, connecting on all 11 attempts from the field and each of his four free throw attempts, finishing with a career-high 26 points, five rebounds and three blocks.
During the Finals, Ibaka will once again be guarding a six-time All-Star, this time facing Chris Bosh, the primary post threat for Miami.
Against Indiana in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, Bosh strained his abdomen just prior to half time in the series opener.
In his absence, LeBron James became the front court presence for the Heat, averaging 33.6 points and 11 rebounds during the seven game set against Boston.
Bosh sank a career-high three shots from beyond the arc in Game 7 and two other attempts from 20-feet away from the basket. If Bosh can continue to shoot effectively from the outside, Ibaka will be forced to play away from the basket.
If not, the Ibaka will continue to be a menace.
Ibaka leads all players averaging 3.3 blocks per game in the playoffs and with Miami essentially playing 4-on-5 offensively, without any offensive presence at center, he could switch with Kendrick Perkins off Bosh and roam the paint.
Oklahoma City has the advantage upfront and with Ibaka’s defensive presence, the Thunder could win the title.