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Teamwork: Young Players' Performance Leads Thunder Past Dallas

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

That's more like it. 

Russell Westbrook played like an uncaged honey badger.  Serge Ibaka was a dominant force on both ends of the floor.  The Thunder we've grown accustomed to seeing reappeared Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, thrashing the Dallas Mavericks 107-93.   

The first quarter started fast and never slowed down.  Each team had 16 points in the paint in a quarter that saw 11 lead changes and six ties. 

The Thunder had no answer for Monta Ellis or Shawn Marion, who combined for 18 points on 8-11 shooting in the period. 

RELATED STORY: Thunder Quotes After Beatdown Of Mavericks

Durant and an explosive Westbrook also got cooking early, scoring eight each in the first while Serge Ibaka added seven as Oklahoma City held a 33-31 lead after one. 

OKC went with a younger unit for a good stretch of the second quarter, running Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and Perry Jones with veteran Nick Collison.  The Thunder's "future" unit held its own until the 7:41 mark when Durant and Westbrook returned to find the two-point lead intact at 41-39. 

Just a little more than a minute later, Westbrook took the roof off the building with a tomahawk dunk in transition to put OKC up 46-39, forcing Rick Carlisle to call a timeout.  

Dallas bounced back and kept it tight heading into the locker room, but trailed Oklahoma City 57-51 at the half.   

As expected, the second quarter's pace didn't match the NASCAR-like speed of the first.  OKC outscored the Mavs 24-20 and held Dallas to just six points in the paint during the period.  Durant's 15 and Westbrook's 13 led the Thunder at the half. 

The third quarter got off to a fast start for the home team as OKC shot out of the gate on a 6-0 burst to take its largest lead of the game at 63-51.  The Thunder kept that stiff arm throughout the third, taking an 85-75 lead into the fourth and cruising to the win. 

The Thunder shot 54.4 percent and held Dallas to just 42.4.  Durant finished with 23 points and 10 assists while Westbrook totaled 22 points and four dimes.  Ibaka turned in his first dominant performance of the year, scoring 17 points on 8-10 shooting while hauling in 13 rebounds and blocking three shots.

Jeremy Lamb led the Thunder bench with 13 points on 4-7 shooting in 20 minutes, while rookie center Steven Adams brought outstanding energy for OKC's second unit.  Adams had six points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes, but his impact can't be completely quantified. 

Thunder coach Scott Brooks was plenty pleased with his team's effort. 

"I thought overall it was a good team win for us," Brooks said.   "Did a lot of things that we were hoping we would get accomplished before the game started.  Makes some shots was one and we did that tonight.  23 assists, unfortunately we had 23 turnovers, but a lot of good things.  Our defense was really solid throughout the game against a very high-scoring basketball team."

Perhaps OKC's breakout performance was prompted by a familiar foe.  The Thunder upped its winning streak over Dallas to 11 games; an unprecedented winning streak in what is now known as the Battle of I-35.

Durant knows any time the Thunder can beat a rival, it's extra-sweet.

"They're right down the road, we play this team all the time it seems like," Durant said.  "They beat us in the playoffs we beat them in the playoffs so we got a nice little history.  It's always an intense matchup and I'm glad we won."

The Thunder (3-1) is back at it Friday night in Detroit to face the Pistons, then back home Sunday to face the Washington Wizards.  With the loss, Dallas fell to 3-2 on the season.   

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