Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki, meanwhile, returned from a two-game absence due to a bout with injury but was as ineffective as he's ever been against the Thunder. He scored 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting, continuing a frustrating season in what's been a fabulous 15-year career.
Ibaka shouldered much of the load on the 11-time All-Star and, thanks to continuously improving technique, forced Nowitzki into his nightmarish shooting night. Ibaka crowded Nowitzki on the perimeter, stayed on the floor for most of his pump fakes, moved his feet from side to side after forcing a drive and contested shots consistently without fouling.
“You can guard him as well as you can guard and he still makes some tough shots. You've seen it in this building and you've seen it in their building,” Brooks said. “He's one of the best shot-makers in the game. But I thought Serge, and (Kendrick Perkins) and Nick (Collison) did a good job.”
Nowitzki compiled his stat total through three quarters, and forward Shawn Marion, who scored a team-high 23 points, was the only other Mavs player at that point in double figure scoring.
The Thunder used a 28-8 run to turn a 22-all ballgame with three minutes remaining in the first period into 20-point lead midway through the second quarter. Seven Thunder players scored during the surge. Kevin Martin netted seven of his 17 points off the bench during that spurt to lead the rally. Durant added six points during the run, while Reggie Jackson chipped in five.
Oklahoma City pulled away by clamping down on Dallas. The Thunder forced the Mavs into nine straight misses to ignite the run, and by the time that charge was over the Mavs had missed 15 of 19 shots in that nine-minute span. Meanwhile, the Thunder played selfless basketball on the other end, dishing seven assists on 12 field goals to lead to the balanced attack.