On the day of the NBA's trade deadline, actual basketball games also emerged out of the All-Star break. Many of the basketball players, on the other hand, took a bit longer to shake off the rust.
Serge Ibaka wasn't one of them. He registered the first 20-20 game of his career en route to leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a clean 104-89 win over the Dallas Mavericks. The Thunder controlled this one from start to end, never ceding the lead once. Ibaka finished with 21 points and 22 rebounds, breaking his previous career-high in rebounds of 20.
The win pushes the Thunder to a 29-25 record and into possession of the eighth seed – they hold the tie-breaker over the Phoenix Suns, also 29-25.
Russell Westbrook, who was named game MVP in last weekend's All-Star Game, led the Thunder in scoring. He finished with 34 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field and a perfect 14-of-14 from the free throw line to go with 10 assists. Fellow All-Star Kevin Durant recorded 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting before checking out with 2:24 left in the game with what appeared to be some form of foot soreness.
With rotation regulars Reggie Jackson and Kendrick Perkins shipped out in trades Thursday afternoon and usual starting center Steven Adams nursing a broken hand, the Thunder had a shorter bench tonight with ten active players (Ish Smith and Grant Jerrett were also traded away). They got a much-appreciated shot of energy off the bench from Anthony Morrow, who recorded 16 points with 14 coming in the second quarter including a buzzer-beating 22-footer to close the first half.
The Mavericks trailed 52-36 at halftime, and were down by as much as 22 in the second half before cutting the Thunder lead down to 10 with a 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter. They were never able to get any closer than that, however, after Westbrook assisted a Nick Collison layup and scored two layups of his own to push the lead to 16 with 1:57 remaining.
With the exception of the recently signed Amar'e Stoudemire, the Mavericks had their full roster available (no trades), but not a single player that looked quite in game form. They shot 36.3% from the field and were led in scoring by Dirk Nowitzki's 14 points.
The Thunder play their next game on Saturday against the 22-30 Charlotte Hornets. We should get our first glimpse at the fruits of today's trade deadline labor – Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin and buyout candidate Steve Novak – in uniform this weekend barring any unusual setbacks.