Trade talk doesn’t deter Thunder in 104-89 win

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Thunder's Andre Roberson guards Dallas' Monta Ellis in the Western Conference matchup Thursday night.
Nick Collison, right, tries to block a shot against Dallas.
Kevin Durant scores two of his 12 points on a slam dunk.
Serge Ibaka, center, battles A-Farouq Aminu, right, and Chandler Parsons for a rebound. Ibaka grabbed a career-high and franchise-high 22 boards Thursday night.
Russell Westbrook zips a pass to a teammate as Dallas' Tyson Chandler looks on.
Thunder rookie Mitch McGary shoots over two Dallas defenders. McGary finished with four points and three rebounds.

By Tim Farley

Oklahoma City’s 15-point win over Dallas Thursday night almost was anti-climactic compared to the trade news that hit earlier in the day as Thunder mainstays Kendrick Perkins and Reggie Jackson were dealt to other teams.

Still, the Thunder came out firing on all cylinders while notching its fourth consecutive win 104-89 and tying the Phoenix Suns for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City’s move into the top eight teams received little attention since most of the post-game talk centered on the trade and the Thunder’s acquisition of four players – 6-11 center Enes Kanter and sharpshooter Steve Novak from the Utah Jazz and Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin from Detroit. Perkins was sent to Utah while Jackson was dealt to Detroit.

Kanter, 22, was the third overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Thunder General Manager Sam Presti labeled the trade “an opportunity” to achieve short term and long term goals, including a potential run toward the NBA Finals.

“We think his (Kanter’s) best basketball is in front of him and Steve is one of the best shooters in the league. Augustine understands his position (point guard) and can score and shoot the ball. Singler is a winning player with good size and can guard the backup threes we see on a regular basis,” Presti said.

Presti and Thunder head coach Scott Brooks both said they’re “excited” about the possibilities the four new players bring to the team.

“I like the versatility the front line players have,” Presti said.

Presti downplayed the loss of Perkins who was a defensive stalwart for the Thunder since coming over in a trade with Boston four years ago.

“It’s never been about one particular guy. It’s been about a group of guys,” he said. “There’s no pigeon holing guys.”

The four new Thunder players are expected to receive physicals Friday and don an Oklahoma City uniform for the first time Saturday at Charlotte. The Thunder returns home Sunday for a matchup with Denver.

“There are going to be adjustments made while we integrate the group, but it’s a process I’m excited about. Our players are going to embrace it and we are looking forward to tomorrow,” Brooks said.

Back on the court

After a week off for the NBA All-Star break, Brooks was glad to be back on the court as the team heads into the latter portion of the season.

“It was good to get back to playing basketball,” he said. “I thought we came out of the break and played a good game. We had some stretches that were really good. Good ball movement, good defensive execution. It got sloppy there for a few moments. Actually, probably both teams did, but I thought we did a lot of good things on both ends.”

From start to finish, the Thunder was in control, leading by as many as 16 in the first half and then increasing the advantage to 22 late in the third quarter. Dallas cut the lead to 10 in the fourth quarter but that was as close as the Mavericks could get with Russell Westbrook scoring on four driving layups to extend the lead.

Westbrook was the game’s leading scorer with 34 points on nine of 17 shots. He hit 14 of 14 free throw attempts and also dished out 10 assists.

Westbrook wasn’t the only Thunder player with a big night. Forward Serge Ibaka bagged a career-high and franchise-high 22 rebounds to go with 21 points. Ibaka grabbed 19 of his 22 boards in the final three quarters.

Anthony Morrow added 16 points while Kevin Durant tallied 12, hitting only four of 14 shots. He also recorded six rebounds and five assists.

Oklahoma City led Dallas 52-36 at halftime, holding the Mavs to 29 percent shooting from the field and 21 percent from behind the arc. Dallas finished the game shooting 36 percent, the team’s worst shooting performance of the season.

“We scrambled. We got physical with them and you know we contested shots,” Durant said. “They also missed shots as well so I think that luck was on our part as well. But I think for the most part we played physical.”

The Mavs were led in scoring by Dirk Nowitzki with 14 points on six of 16 shots. Three other Mavs also scored in double figures.

GAME NOTES: Three of the Thunder’s last four wins have come against playoff-bound teams from the Western Conference – Los Angeles Clipppers, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas…Although Oklahoma City won by 15, the Thunder committed five more turnovers than the Mavs, including six by Westbrook.

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