Kevin Durant's ribs were fine.
His team's defense was even better.
The Oklahoma City Thunder rode both en route to a dominating 112-91 win over Dallas on Monday inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant, who sustained a right rib contusion in the second half of Saturday's loss at Cleveland, shook off the injury and took his customary place in the starting lineup against the Mavs. He didn't miss a beat, scoring 19 points with 10 rebounds and four assists while making six of 11 shots in 29 minutes.
“Just play,” Durant said when asked how he was able to block out the banged up rib. “At the end of the Cleveland game, I mean, I was hurting throughout the game. But your adrenaline takes over and I tried not to focus on it. If you think about it too much that's when it really starts to hurt. So I just tried to take my mind off of it and play the game. Tonight, I tried to do the same. I didn't want to shy away from contact or anything. I just wanted to play the game.”
Durant ended up getting a rest anyway.
No starter needed to play a second of the fourth quarter, as the Thunder built a 27-point first half advantage before leading by as many as 33.
After allowing 115 points to the Cavs, an opponent season high for a regulation game this season, the Thunder displayed a renewed defensive focus against a Dallas squad that took each of the previous two meetings to overtime. Against the Cavs, the Thunder yielded 39 points in the fourth quarter. Against the Mavs on Monday, the Thunder allowed just 44 in the first half.
The Mavs shot just 41.4 percent and never led by more than two points.
“I thought the guys were terrific tonight,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 24 points with seven assists. Serge Ibaka added 12 points. But the sight of Durant slashing to the rim was as significant as anything that took place on this night.
The four-time All-Star was in visible pain following the Cleveland game and needed to go to the hospital upon arrival in Oklahoma City late Saturday night.
He was cleared to play, assuring that his career games missed wouldn't jump past 14.
From the start Monday, Durant barreled to the basket multiple times, not only drawing contact with frequency but seemingly initiating and embracing it. On one late first-quarter possession, Durant drove down the right side of the floor and attempted to flush a highlight-reel dunk against two Mavs defenders. He was fouled hard by forward Elton Brand on the play but bounced right up, strolled to the free throw line and split a pair.
“My trainers do a great job of getting me ready throughout the whole day,” Durant said. “So I just got to continue taking care of it and hopefully I'll be better the next few days.”
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.