For the first time this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder's offense is showing signs of life.
All the things the team talked about in the preseason, better spacing and better ball movement, hard cuts and hard screens, were on display in Wednesday's 14-point win over Dallas.
Of course, it helped that the Thunder finally made shots.
But the little things led to big things, like the Thunder shooting a season-high 54.4 percent against the Mavs, netting five of 13 3-pointers and racking up 28 assists. OKC's 107 points were the most the team has scored since Game 1 of its first-round playoff series against Houston last season.
“A lot of good things,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But there's still a lot of things to continue to work on.”
Without question, one of the biggest positives was the production of Serge Ibaka's on the offensive end.
The Thunder's starting power forward finally found his rhythm after struggling with his shot in the first three games. He scored 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting in 36 minutes against the Mavs. In the previous three games, Ibaka was held under double digits in points in each outing while connecting on just 11 of his 30 field goal attempts.
Perhaps sensing that Ibaka needed a lift, Brooks left him in the game for the first 13 minutes, 54 seconds of the game. It was a move that worked to perfection, largely because Ibaka brought energy and hustle plays that helped him to make an impact.
Starting the game guarding Dirk Nowitzki, Ibaka allowed his smothering defense to spark momentum that was then used on the offensive end. He crowded Nowitzki on the perimeter and moved his feet on drives before closely contesting Nowitzki's shots on the majority of his attempts. Ibaka also had three blocks and a steal.
“He was active,” Brooks said. “Not only was he blocking (shots), he was altering shots. And that's what we expect Serge to do. He has to rebound, block shots, contest and alter shots, and he did that a very high level.”
With point guard Russell Westbrook back in the lineup and Ibaka knocking down his shots, the Thunder offense looked completely different. It went from having Kevin Durant as the sole threat in the season opener at Utah, and two with Westbrook making his debut Sunday against Phoenix, to a three-headed monster with Ibaka in the mix.
The offense was made even better by Durant's season-high 10 assists, which helped other role players become threats. Durant dished an assist to seven different players, leading to an additional 22 points to complement the game-high 23 he scored.
Ibaka dumped in eight of his points off assists from Durant and established himself as the integral offensive player that he was projected to be.
Suddenly, the Thunder's offense began clicking and most everything on that end of the court looked better.
“We just needed to play well. We didn't feel like we've played real well this season,” said Nick Collison. “So it was a really good game for us. The energy was a lot better.”