Serge Ibaka last week decided it was better to not discuss recent hostile comments directed at him by San Antonio forward Stephen Jackson.
On Monday, when the two shared the same court for the first time since Jackson used social media to send a threatening message to the Thunder's forward, Ibaka let his game do the talking.
Ibaka scored a game- and career-high-tying 25 points and led all players with 17 rebounds as the Thunder took advantage of the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs to secure a 107-93 win inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It was the Thunder's 11th straight win and the 20th in 24 games this season.
The Spurs, though, were without guard Manu Ginobili for the second time in as many meetings with the Thunder. A left quad contusion he sustained against Boston on Saturday kept him sidelined. Ginobili missed the Thunder's season opener in San Antonio because of a bad back. San Antonio also was without starting forward Kawhi Leonard due to a leg injury.
San Antonio stayed close despite its shortcomings. But the Thunder used a 29-16 third quarter to pull away and outscored the Spurs 54-45 in the second half.
“We knew it was going to be a very physical game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “The way they play, even without Ginobili and Leonard, we still know that their depth and their skill-set and their coaching is top of the line.”
For much of the opening quarter, Monday felt like Game 4 of last year's Western Conference Finals rather than game 24 of this season. That's because Ibaka couldn't miss, evoking memories from early June of his 11-for-11 shooting performance against these Spurs.
Ibaka started the game making his first seven shots before his first miss came on a 23-foot attempt to beat the second-quarter buzzer.
He finished 10-for-16 while adding three blocks in 39 minutes.
“They do a great job of taking the main scorers out of the game and not letting them get their averages or have big nights against them,” Kevin Durant (19 points) said of the Spurs. “So that's when you have to step up. It was a really good job of everybody. Serge was terrific tonight.”
It was the first time since Jan. 27 at Golden State that Ibaka has finished with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds and just the third time in his career that he's done it in the regular season.
Jackson perhaps supplied Ibaka's motivation when he posted a message to his Twitter account on Dec. 7 threatening to fight Ibaka if the two happened to get tangled up the next time their teams met. In the first meeting between these teams this season, baka and Jackson were called for a double technical foul for jawing. No funny business took place Monday.
Jackson posted his message after Ibaka and Metta World Peace, Jackson's former teammate who was formerly known as Ron Artest, had an on-court altercation in the Thunder's home game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ibaka again declined to discuss the matter Monday.
“I respect your job, but I don't want to talk about (it),” Ibaka repeated when asked if Jackson's comments fueled his performance. “It was a great win for us. We need it. It's about (the) win, the team win.”
Jackson, who returned to the lineup Monday after missing 14 straight games because of a finger he fractured Nov. 19, chose to focus his post-game comments on team, too.
“I'm leaving that alone,” said Jackson when asked if the two exchanged words. “It's all basketball. Whatever was said on the court is going to stay on the court and I'm going to leave it alone. I wish Serge the best.”
Jackson then commended Ibaka.
“He hurt us bad,” Jackson said. “He had, what, 18 in the first half, 16 in the first half? He was hitting everything. That's the same way we lost last year in the playoffs, by him hitting those same shots. I take my hat off. He played a great game tonight.”