Russell Westbrook rebounded an air-balled 3-pointer and darted the other way, sprinting full speed ahead with Kevin Durant filling the lane on his left and Derek Fisher floating to the corner on the right.
But when no defender for Dallas stopped the ball, Westbrook, after only five dribbles, took flight, launching himself toward the rim from just beyond the dotted line below the free throw line.
He finished the fast break by with a thunderous tomahawk dunk, the kind that made you forget all about how Westbrook is working his way back from a surgically repaired knee.
The slam put the Thunder ahead by 17, its largest advantage of the night, and put an exclamation on Westbrook's role in OKC's eventual 107-93 win over the Mavericks on Wednesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
In just his second game since late April, Westbrook was the best player on the floor throughout his 33 minutes. He finished with 22 points on 10-for-20 shooting and added four assists against five turnovers.
But none of his minutes were as pivotal as perhaps his first 10. That's when he set the tone with his customary toughness and sparked the Thunder to its best start of the young season, a 33-31 lead after the opening period.
Westbrook energized his team with relentless attacks and unrivaled emotion. He scored eight of the Thunder's first 12 points, converting two fast break layups, a wing jumper off the glass and a pullup jumper in transition. He then got his teammates involved, spotting Durant for a dunk after he shook free from his defender on the baseline and Serge Ibaka in the corner for a 3-pointer. At that point, Westbrook was responsible for 13 of the Thunder's first 22 points.
“It's what we expect,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Most significant was how Westbrook reignited the Thunder's transition game. Largely behind Westbrook's end-to-end speed, the Thunder raced to nine first-quarter fast break points and 13 by halftime, scoring on all six opportunities. In the previous two games, the Thunder produced just 16 points in transition. OKC finished with a season-high 27 Wednesday.
“We just try to play off our defense,” Durant said. “And I think tonight we did a good job of getting into the passing lanes and rebounding and kicking it up and getting to the cup.”
Durant was dominant in his own right, but with the pass on this night, finally flaunting the phenomenal playmaking he displayed in the preseason. He finished with 23 points and a game-high 10 assists.
Behind Durant's passing and Westbrook's nonstop pressure, the Thunder had 28 assists and shot a season-high 54.4 percent.