Serge Ibaka flirted with a triple-double in the Thunder's 95-74 win at Cleveland on Sunday, scoring eight points with 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
The second-year forward's defense set the tone for the game, as he protected the rim for the Thunder and discouraged both Cavs guards and big men from hoisting shots in the paint.
“He wanted to protect the basket,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We talked about it before the game … When he does that, we're very good defensively.”
Center Nazr Mohammed refused to take any credit for the team's impressive interior defense.
“That was all Serge,” Mohammed said. “Serge did an unbelievable job contesting shots, blocking shots, clogging up that middle. He reminds me of Theo Ratliff back in his day with his ability to block shots.”
Ibaka said he has recorded 12 blocks while playing in South Africa in his younger days.
TRASH TALK FUELS WESTBROOK'S BIG THIRD QUARTER
In the third quarter, point guard Russell Westbrook scored 14 of the Thunder's 25 points to help his team take a 19-point lead into the final period.
Westbrook poured in 12 straight Thunder points on a series of drives during a five-minute span and was 7-for-9 from the field in the period. Westbrook also added three assists in the quarter.
“Sometimes I feel the game is getting out of whack,” Westbrook said. “We took a 10-point lead and it kind of stayed that way for a long time and they were about to make a run. I just tried to step up and do what I can to get us going. I was just trying to compete, go out and win for my team.”
Kevin Durant said the team began playing off Westbrook “because once he gets it going, he's going to be tough to stop.”
“The thing about it, he didn't do it outside the offense,” Durant said. “He did everything within the offense and everybody still looked good. They (the Cavs) were talking a little bit over there. That's one thing Russ really doesn't like. It kind of ticks him off a little bit. He came and did his thing.”