MILWAUKEE — Lurking one locker stall from where Thabo Sefolosha sat while conducting a French interview, Serge Ibaka pointed to his Swiss teammate and ardently declared Sefolosha the MVP of Monday night's game.
Based on Sefolosha's body of work, he was as deserving as anybody.
But the Thunder thumped Milwaukee, 109-89, inside the Bradley Center behind a total team effort that saw everyone play their role to near perfection and result in an almost flawlessly executed game plan.
“All of us were real solid,” Sefolosha said. “We started the game really strong and that gave us confidence. On the road, that's real important to come out strong and we did that tonight.”
The Thunder jumped on the Bucks from the outset, building a 13-point lead 5 1/2 minutes in before bumping the margin to 35-18 at the end of the period. The 35-point quarter tied a season best for the Thunder in a first quarter.
Size was the difference-maker.
Oklahoma City's length was simply too much for Milwaukee, as Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins bullied the undersized Bucks on the boards at both ends while helping the Thunder block six shots in the opening frame.
Ibaka and Perkins combined for 21 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and six blocked shots.
“The first unit did a great job,” said James Harden.
The work the big men did on the inside was complemented by rock-solid guard play from Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook.
Sefolosha in particular gave the Bucks fits. He helped hold recently acquired Bucks guard Monta Ellis to nine points and seven assists on 3-for-12 shooting. It was Ellis who scored 48 points against the Thunder on Feb. 7 while still with Golden State. Sefolosha was forced to sit out that last meeting with Ellis as he nursed a foot injury that cost him 23 games. But the Thunder's defensive stopper said he vividly remembers watching helplessly as Ellis lit up the scoreboard against his teammates.