Regular Season Recap: Thunder at Mavericks

THUNDER 95

MAVERICKS 86
9 Assists by James Harden on the night, his season-high

10 Blocks by Serge Ibaka, his career-high

11 Rebounds by Serge Ibaka, part of his double double

13 Reboudns by Kevin Durant, part of his third straight double double

21.1 3-point shooting percentage by the Mavericks, a part of a solid Thunder defensive effort

33 Points by Russell Westbrook, his fourth 30 point game this season

55 Rebounds by the Thunder, a +11 advantage over the Mavericks

The Thunder comes home after three games on the road to host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then heads back out on the road for five straight Western Conference matchups, starting at San Antonio on Saturday night and continuing to Portland on Monday then Golden State, Sacramento and Utah.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
After a lackluster first quarter, the Thunder defense dominated in the final three quarters of its 95-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Serge Ibaka finished with a career-high 10 blocks to go with 11 rebounds, while forward Nick Collison and center Kendrick Perkins slowed Dirk Nowitzki to 8 points on 2-of-15 shooting. The blocks by Ibaka and defense by Collison were crucial tonight, and helped the Thunder erase a 29-21 deficit at the end of the first quarter in order to seal a hard-earned road victory.

"We usually to just play up on (Nowitzki), make him hit tough shots and, like I said, he usually still does make them," Collison said. "(Ibaka's blocking ability) changes the entire game. It can take away a big part of what they're trying to do in getting to the basket. He probably had four or five where he went straight up and made them miss, which are the same as blocks. So if you look at it like that he may have made them miss 15 or 20 shots. That's huge."

The defensive strategy that led to the Thunder's success was spawned by Ibaka asking head coach Scott Brooks if he could play off of Nowitzki in order to allow him to roam and protect the paint while Collison, Perkins and Kevin Durant all took turns giving Nowitzki different defensive looks. The move clearly paid off considering the Thunder held the Mavericks to 35.7% shooting for the game after allowing the Mavericks to shoot 68.4% in the first quarter.

"When you're in the game, I like to get offense, but on offense it wasn't my day, so I thought the defense was working so I said, 'Let's be focused (on that)'," Ibaka said. "(With) the blocked shots, I wanted to just keep going."

With the defensive effort in hand, all the Thunder needed was an offensive spark to put the game away. It came in the form of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who combined to send Oklahoma City on a 7-0 run capped by a Westbrook pull-up jumpshot, a Durant fall away and then an emphatic Westbrook 3-pointer. Westbrook said after the game that it was a great example of how the Thunder has gelled as a unit and understands how to operate in crunch time.

"It was just learning from our mistakes the last two or three years of playing together," Westbrook said. "We're doing a better job of closing out games. You saw that tonight."

During that late run the Thunder used it's offensive firepower to stave off Dallas' late charge, but it also got five stops on six Mavericks possessions to close out the contest. Outside of the first quarter, Brooks said, it was the best defensive performance of the season for the Thunder. In the first twelve minutes of the game the Mavericks converted 13-of-19 field goal attempts. Thanks to the Thunder defense, they only made 17 of their final 65 shots from the field, including a 2-for-15 mark from the 3-point line.

“We really got after the ball," Brooks said. "We fought through screens. We contested their shots, and we rebounded the basketball. We couldn't ask for better effort and execution.”

TURNING POINT:
There were two turning points in this one, as the Thunder erased a nine point Mavericks lead and took control of the game with a 13-4 run to start the second half. The Thunder was down 54-51 with less than two minutes gone in the second half when Serge Ibaka went on a blocking spree, sending three shots away in the span of a minute and a half. The Mavericks only made one shot attempt until the 4:18 mark in the quarter. By that point, Kendrick Perkins already had a put back layup, Kevin Durant had a fast break dunk and Russell Westbrook converted two shots in the lane to give the Thunder a 65-58 lead. The second turning point came late in the contest, when with the score tied at 85 apiece, the Thunder scored seven straight points. Westbrook hit a pull-up jump shot, Kevin Durant made a turnaround jumper and then Westbrook made a dagger 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 92-85 with just over 30 seconds remaining in the game.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Steal on the first possession by Daequan Cook and Kendrick Perkins on a switch... Russell Westbrook taking a rebound away from the trees inside then drawing a foul on the other end... Cook really working and moving his feet to keep Vince Carter out of the lane... Incredibly quick move by Westbrook to dish and find Perkins in the lane... A Westbrook steal leads to a run-out and a Kevin Durant "and-one" opportunity after Durant finished at the rim... Tough offensive rebound by Perkins to draw the Mavericks' fifth team foul with four minutes left in the first quarter... Durant hustling to pick up a loose ball... Nice job by Durant the next time downcourt to drive the lane and see Reggie Jackson for an open layup... Nick Collison being in the right place to grab an offensive rebound and give the Thunder a second opportunity... James Harden playing tight perimeter defense on Jason Terry, preventing him from getting a good look at the basket... Picture perfect pull-up jumper by Jackson to start the second quarter... Good box out by Cook to prevent a Mavericks offensive rebound... Collison and James Harden working the two man game... Collison playing tough defense on Dirk Nowitzki... Serge Ibaka flying in from behind to block a Delonte West layup... Perfect pass from Harden to Cook for an open 3-pointer as the shot clock expired... Great sequence by Jackson to knock down a 3-pointer, then disrupt a pass attempt on the defensive end... Collison gets his hand on a pass that leads to a Harden run-out and two free throws... Harden grabbing an Ibaka block and racing downcourt to find a flying Westbrook for an alley-oop... Textbook blockout by Ibaka, which leads to a Durant jumpshot and a Thunder lead... Great outlet pass to Harden for a breakaway dunk... Nice cut by Westbrook to fly to the lane for a layup, then he blocks a Shawn Marion shot on the defensive end... Really important offensive rebound and put-back by Serge Ibaka at the end of the half.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Smooth lefty finish by Westbrook at the rim to start the half... Perkins battling through contact for a layup... A defensive rebound leads to a Westbrook-Durant two-on-one fast break and a soaring Durant dunk... Nice job by Cook to front Nowitzki and steal a pass... Beautiful step-through move by Westbrook to finish in the lane twice in a row... Another good defensive stand leading to a Durant dump off to Perkins for a layup... Good job by Durant to draw a foul at the end of the shot clock... The Thunder defense forcing a 24 second shot clock violation... Incredible dexterity by Collison to tip-in a Westbrook miss with his left hand... Westbrook anticipating a back-door cut and making the steal in the lane... Masterful job by Collison to get a hand in Nowitzki's face on every shot... Well-executed hesitation move by Harden to get his man on his hip and convert a layup... Ibaka making his presence felt down low on consecutive possessions... Almost a sensational steal from Nowitzki's blind side by Westbrook... Westbrook then stopping a sure dunk by contesting at the rim... Great job of getting back in transition by Harden, who stole the ball and got it to Westbrook for a dunk... Sweet drive and dish from Harden to Collison for the dunk... Huge rebound by Durant to box out and then get to the rim on the next possession... Another offensive board for Collison to give the Thunder another chance... Great job by Durant to get back and block a fast break layup... Then Ibaka recovers an offensive board for a put-back... Huge shot by Westbrook to get the lead back, then Durant with a fadeaway to put the Thunder up by four... Incredible hustle by Ibaka, who got the Thunder a second possession, which Westbrook converted with a 3-pointer... Heads up defense by Cook and Durant to deflect and intercept a pass to effectively seal the game.