OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant expected a hard-fought game. The Oklahoma City forward said whenever the Thunder faces Dallas Mavericks, it is always an intense contest that goes down to wire.
The Wednesday night game proved that even Durant can be wrong, as the Thunder defeated the Mavericks 107-93 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"We just didn't play well enough," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's a disappointing night."
While the game lacked the normal drama, it did have its moments of intensity that led to three technical fouls, a flagrant foul and the ejection of Dallas guard Vince Carter.
"It's just two teams competing," Durant said. "We are right down the road. We play them all the time it seems like. They beat us in the playoffs. We beat them in the playoffs. We have a nice little history. It's always an intense matchup. I'm glad we won."
For 2 1/2 quarters, the Mavericks kept the game close. However, from the middle of the third quarter on, the Thunder (3-1) were in complete control as their defense shut down anything Dallas tried to do.
Durant led the Thunder's charge with 23 points to go along with 10 assists and two steals. In his second game back after knee surgery, guard Russell Westbrook added 22 points on 10-for-20 shooting. Forward Serge Ibaka posted 17 points and 13 rebounds.
The Mavericks (3-2) were paced by guard Monta Ellis, who shot 8-for-17 and scored 20 points. Forward Shawn Marion added 17 points and four rebounds, and forward Dirk Nowitzki was held to 16 points.
Westbrook seems to be one of the few players in the NBA who plays well when angry, and he was upset early. After he knocked down a jump shot over Dallas guard Jose Calderon, Westbrook let out a scream and stared at the fans.
Despite all of Oklahoma City's theatrics, Dallas controlled the paint and trailed by only two heading into the second quarter.
Marion and Ellis found their range from long distance and got easy baskets in transition to put pressure on the Thunder, but it was the Mavericks' work on the boards that kept them in the game. They outworked the Thunder for loose balls and turned them into second-chance points.
With 2:26 left in the first half, Dallas center Samuel Dalembert collected an offensive rebound and set up a 3-pointer by forward Jae Crowder. The basket cut Oklahoma City's lead to 53-51. However, Dallas didn't score the rest of the half and trailed 57-51 at halftime.
Oklahoma City began to assert itself on both in the third quarter and stretched its lead to double digits.
"I thought our energy was good," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, "particularly in that second half on the defensive end. We did a great job on the boards. We got outrebounded in the first half and came back and outreboudned them in the second half. It's something we want to continue to improve on."
Late in the quarter, Carter got tangled up with Thunder rookie center Steven Adams. Carter was assessed a flagrant foul for throwing an elbow to Adams' face and was thrown out the game.
"Definitely felt it," Adams said. "It was an elbow to the head. I just don't like reacting to it. It's unfortunate that it happened, really."
Carter apologized for the incident but said it's all part of the rivalry between the teams.
"Everybody is just playing to win," Carter said. "I think we have a lot of history. All of them have been chippy and edgy. It just makes for good basketball. It's unfortunate that it happened."
The Thunder pushed their lead to 15 and looked as if they were on their way to blowing the game open, but Crowder and Nowitzki closed the gap to 10 points entering the fourth quarter.
That would be as close as Dallas would get the rest of the game. Westbrook took advantage of fast-break opportunities and threw down a couple of powerful dunks in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks could get nothing going, and they were outscored 22-18 points in the final quarter.
"It was combination of untimely turnovers that turned into points and other problems," Carlisle said. "They are a good team. To win this game in this atmosphere, you have to really be right, you have to be functioning well on all levels. It just wasn't there for us tonight."
NOTES: Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant admitted being a longtime fan of Dallas F Dirk Nowitzki. "When I was about 13, sorry if I'm making Dirk seem a little old, that's when I really started focusing on Dirk and he started to become one of my favorite players to ever play this game," Durant said. "I just tried (fadeaway jumper) one day while working out in the summer. It was rougher than I thought it was going to be, so it took some time to figure out, but I think I'm doing all right with it." ... Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said the team plays better when it is aggressive. "Paint attacks is one of those things all teams want to have," Carlisle said. "We want to get them from a lot of different places, not just (Monta Ellis). It all starts with good ball movement." ... The Thunder play the Pistons in Detroit on Friday, the same night the Mavericks play the Timberwolves in Minnesota.