Why Serge Ibaka is a huge loss for the Oklahoma City Thunder

Serge Ibaka

The Thunder are left with a mammoth task ahead after losing their star big man.

With Serge Ibaka set to miss the rest of the playoffs, it is the second consecutive year that the Oklahoma City Thunder will be without one of their star players in the postseason.

Last year Russell Westbrook's torn ACL saw Oklahoma City fall to the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round. With Kevin Durant and an out-of-sorts Ibaka having to carry the team, the Thunder never really had a shot at the title, and will face a similar challenge this year without their best big man.

Matched up against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals, Ibaka will be a big miss in the frontcourt. He is the Thunder's best defender, and has given Tim Duncan trouble in past battles.

In the first game of the series, Duncan took it to the Thunder, tallying 27 points in just 29 minutes as San Antonio strolled to a 122-105.

Game 1 showed the impact of losing their best defensive player, and even if Oklahoma City manage to get past the Spurs, they will face an equally tough challenge in the finals against the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers.

Ibaka averaged 2.2 blocks per game in the playoffs, and is one of the few players in the league that can deter the likes of Tony Parker and James when they attack the rim.

The Congolese power forward featured in all four of the Thunders' most frequently used five-man lineups, either as the solitary big man or paired with Kendrick Perkins.

With his defensive ability and post play, Ibaka allowed the Thunder to play small ball with three guards and Durant at the power forward position.

Now, coach Scott Brooks will be forced to slot the offensively-deficient Perkins into Ibaka's role, or to try the lesser-used combination of Steven Adams and Nick Collison.

The Thunder's lineup of Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Durant, Collison and Adams has looked promising during the playoffs, but they have only played a total of 26 minutes together and there will be concerns about their ability to score in the post.

One thing is for sure, it will take a monumental effort from Durant and Westbrook to haul the Thunder past the Spurs and into the finals. The likelihood is that the Thunder, who looked a potential juggernaut after reaching the finals in 2012, have been robbed of another shot at the title by injury.