For the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 2016 Western Conference Finals is a memory that will forever be etched in franchise history.
And for Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, remembering how the Thunder lost a 3-1 lead in the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors still stings.
Ibaka played for the Thunder from 2009-2016, his last season with OKC being the 2015-16 campaign. On Thursday, he and the Raptors will play the Warriors in the NBA Finals, with Game 1 set for 9 p.m. ET in Toronto.
“Man, that hurts,” Ibaka said Tuesday of the 2016 West Finals, per Josh Lewenberg of The Sports Network. “Anytime I think about it, man, it still hurts. I’m so thankful now I have another opportunity to play against them.”
The Thunder only needed to win one more game to advance to the NBA Finals, but the Warriors had one of the best comebacks in playoff history. Before the Warriors came back to win the series, only nine teams in league history had come back from being down 3-1.
Ibaka will play against his old Thunder teammate Kevin Durant, who has won two titles with the Warriors. Durant won’t play in Game 1because of a right calf strain, but he will travel to Toronto for the first two games of the series.
With the Raptors being one of the best defensive teams in the league, boasting a defensive rating of 102.4, they have a good chance of competing with the Warriors in the Finals.
Ibaka has been solid coming off the bench on both ends of the floor. He averaged 8.2 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.