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Ibaka, Thunder overpower Spurs

The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Two weeks after being called out by San Antonio's Stephen Jackson, Serge Ibaka got his payback.

The Oklahoma City forward bullied the Spurs as he led the Thunder to a 107-93 victory Monday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Ibaka led all scorers with 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting. He also racked up 17 rebounds and three blocked shots as Oklahoma City earned its franchise-record-tying 11th consecutive victory.

"He's gifted," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Ibaka. "You have a four-man who can spread the court and shoot it like that, it makes it tougher on everybody."

The Spurs defeated the Thunder in the season opener. Late in the fourth quarter Monday, it looked as if they might have a chance to do it again.

With its starters on the bench, San Antonio (19-7) trimmed an 18-point deficit down to nine in the fourth quarter. Nando de Colo, James Anderson and DeJuan Blair got the Spurs back in the game, putting the Thunder on their heels.

But with 3:45 left in the game, Oklahoma City's Kevin Martin drained a 3-pointer to slow the Spurs' momentum. Blair scored again, but a Nick Collison offensive rebound led to a Ibaka dunk.

After forcing a turnover, Thunder forward Kevin Durant came up with a breakaway dunk to put the game away.

"We are never going to stop fighting," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That's how we are made up. That's how we challenge each other in practice. That's never going to change."

The Thunder (20-4) won the game on the glass, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds. They outboarded the Spurs 49-37 as a team.

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook finished with 22 points and nine assists. Durant had a subpar shooting night and finished with only 19 points, but he made up for it with three blocks and four assists. Martin added 20 points.

"We always have to make an extra push against these guys," Durant said. "You have to be on point with every play because they expose all of your mistakes. So we just wanted to play hard, make up for if we made a turnover, get back in transition and try to stop those guys."

De Colo came off the San Antonio bench to score 14 points, all in the second half. Spurs guard Tony Parker shot 4-for-11 for 14 points, and he handed out seven assists, but he was held in check much of the night.

After missing the previous 14 games with an injury, Jackson ended the night with only five points and four rebounds, but he was glad he chose to make his return against the Thunder.

"That's how I want to come back," Jackson said. "I want to play against the best. It was exciting to be back out there. But you have to give Oklahoma City its props. They gave us an old-fashioned butt whooping today."

Ibaka had his jump shot going as he racked up 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting in the first quarter. The Thunder led 30-26 heading into second period.

With Duncan getting off to a slow start, Tiago Splitter provided the points in the paint early for the Spurs. San Antonio's vaunted balanced attack kept the Spurs within striking distance. Of the 10 Spurs who played in the first half, nine of them scored at least two points. Even so, the Thunder led 53-48 at halftime.

Oklahoma City's defense turned up the pressure in the third quarter, forcing the Spurs into becoming a jump-shooting team. Nearly everything San Antonio put up was outside of the paint.

When the San Antonio players did make their way to the rim, Durant and Ibaka were waiting with a block party. They turned the Spurs' bad shots into fast-break dunks.

"We stopped passing the ball and started going one-on-one," Jackson said. "We weren't playing team ball, and they were. Just like they were in the playoffs, they figured out in Game 3 how to play team ball. That is how they blew us out, and they played team ball all game. We were a little selfish in the third quarter, and it showed."

NOTES: Even with the loss of Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, Oklahoma City's second unit of Collison, Eric Maynor, Martin and Hasheem Thabeet has found a way to improve this year. Brooks is increasingly playing Durant with the second team, and the strategy has turned into a weapon for the Thunder. "Biggest thing is having KD in that unit," Brooks said. "He's a good guy to have in the second group. We've changed our rotations up a little bit, and it's worked. Guys are still learning how each other fits in. I think that second unit has been much better. Once I put Kevin in that unit, we've kind of stuck with that." ... When Splitter came out for the tip-off against Oklahoma City, it was only the fifth time in his career that he started alongside Duncan. In the four previous occurrences -- three against the Los Angeles Lakers, one against the Boston Celtics (on Saturday) -- San Antonio won all four times. "He has improved nowhere," Popovich said. "What I mean by nowhere is that what you see him doing is what he's done his whole career. He's just been hurt so much since we brought him over that he's never gotten any consistent playing time." ... The Spurs were without Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard. Up until an hour before the game started, San Antonio thought it would be without Jackson, too, but he surprised his coach and media director by letting everyone know he would be available through Twitter.
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