By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – After missing the playoffs last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder had a lot of pent up frustration in them. Kevin Durant in particular was anxious to get back into the postseason to prove he is still one of the elite players in the league.
It didn’t take long for Durant and Thunder to show how much they missed being in the playoffs as they defeated the Dallas Mavericks 108-70 Saturday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“We just wanted to come put and impose our will early,” Durant said. “We didn’t want to ease into the game. We wanted to be the aggressor. We came out and did a good job.”
The Thunder took a 1-0 lead in the first-round series with the Mavericks.
Russell Westbrook scored 24 points to lead the Thunder. He shot 7 of 15 from the field to go along with 11 rebounds and five assists. Durant added 23 points, five assists and five rebounds in only 26 minutes of work and Serge Ibaka posted 17 points and nine boards.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. No other Maverick scored in double figures.
“Obviously we got embarrassed tonight,” Nowitzki said. “Couldn’t get anything really flowing on offense. It seemed like that took our energy a little bit on both ends. We just couldn’t get any stops there for a while either.”
Game 2 is Monday in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder came out of the gates trying to blow the Mavericks out from the start. Built on the scoring of Durant and Westbrook and the dominant work on the boards, Oklahoma City jumped out to a 26-11 first quarter advantage.
Dallas didn’t help its cause with its inability to score. Even though Oklahoma City’s defense gave the Mavs opportunities to knock down wide-open shots, they were unable to connect and fell behind by 20 points midway through the second quarter.
The Thunder didn’t let up on the struggling Mavericks. Enes Kanter and Ibaka got involved on the boards as their lead grew to 59-33 at halftime.
Oklahoma City won the rebound battle 56-33.
“We have to do better,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’re big, they’re strong and they’re aggressive. They come. They are sending two and three guys. It’s an area where we have to make up some ground.”
It didn’t get any easier for Dallas in the third. Starting point guard J.J. Barea re-injured his groin and sat out the second half.
Without Barea, the Mavericks plan to slow the pace of the game took a serious hit. It also deprived Dallas of its one perimeter players who seems to relish facing Westbrook.
With only Nowitzki able to find his shot, and after Oklahoma City went up by 30, Carlisle bench his starters.
With the score 93-51 heading into the fourth, Thunder coach Billy Donovan sat his starters for the rest of the night.
The Thunder held the Mavs to 29 percent shooting from the field and 22 percent from behind the arc. They also racked up seven steals and six blocked shots.
“I think you have to set the tone,” Westbrook said. “I think we did a great job coming out with a defensive mindset against a good offensive team. We did a great job defensively for 48 minutes.”