By Randy Renner
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka wasn't very happy with how he played in Friday's double-overtime win in Orlando so he wanted to make up for some of those lapses quickly on Sunday night.
And did he ever.
Ibaka scored 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the first quarter while blocking a shot and playing outstanding defense to lead the Thunder to a fast start and an eventual 117-93 blowout of the Denver Nuggets.
"Serge has a since of pride, we all do as basketball players," said Thunder superstar forward Kevin Durant. "He wanted to come out and have a really good game and he did. He knocked down open shots and blocked shots for us. he ran the floor very well and defended very, very well."
Ibaka ended his night with 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting, seven rebounds, five blocks and even four assists.
The Thunder came out focused from the jump, led by as many as 11 in the first half and then blew the game open with an 18-4 run to start the second half.
"When we're up, we have to keep our foot on the gas," Durant said. "We got stops, steals and easy points on the offensive end by moving the ball."
"On both ends we played well and we made some improvements from our last game," said Head Coach Billy Donovan.
Seven Thunder players scored in double figures led by Durant's 25 and then Ibaka's 18. Russell Westbrook came close to another triple-double, just through three quarters, with 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Westbrook's backup, D.J. Augustin had one of his best games with 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting overall and 4-for-5 from deep. Backup center Enes Kanter took advantage of mis-matches in that fourth quarter to register another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and both Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson finished with 10. Roberson was just two points shy of his career high.
The Thunder played much better defense Sunday than they had this season, holding the Nuggets to just 38 percent shooting and just 43.9 percent shooting from inside the painted area. OKC dominated the boards with 50 rebounds to just 35 for Denver.
The Thunder starters didn't have to play in the fourth quarter and with a back-to-back looming with another run and gun team in the Houston Rockets tonight that becomes a big deal.
"Leads can evaporate very quickly in an NBA game," Donovan pointed out, "so I think it was important that coming out of that third quarter Kevin and Russell And Serge didn't have to play a second there and the other guys played very, very well."
Struggling Rockets Next Up For Thunder
The Thunder flew to Houston right after the game to rest up for James Harden and the Rockets tonight, but so far this season Harden doesn't look like Harden and the Rockets don't look like the Rockets.
Houston is 0-3 and all three of those losses have been blowouts. The Rockets are next to last in the NBA, averaging 88.7 points a game on just 37.1 percent overall (29th in the NBA) and 24.5 percent on threes (27th).
Harden has been so far off his game he's almost not recognizable, shooting just 22 percent overall and a microscopic 9 percent (NINE PERCENT!!) on threes (3-for-32).
You figure at some point the Rockets will have answer and Durant and the Thunder don't want to let it happen while they're in town.
"We're goin' in against a desperate team that's lost three in a row so we've got our work cut out for us," he said.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 tonight and you can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma.