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Thunder thump Spurs for 11th straight win, stay atop West

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Associated Press
12/17/2012 10:44:34 PM
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Serge Ibaka ripped away an offensive rebound, got hacked in the process and found his way toward midcourt to flex his muscles in celebration.

Ibaka is a force to be reckoned with, and what better way to show it than by delivering his best game of the season against a rival who had a player take a jab at him on Twitter?

Ibaka tied his career best with 25 points and grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs 107-93 Monday night for their 11th straight win.

The victory kept San Antonio from creating a virtual tie with the Thunder for the NBA's best record.

It was the first meeting for the teams since San Antonio's Stephen Jackson made a threatening post about Ibaka on Twitter, drawing a $25,000 fine from the NBA.

"I don't want to talk about it," said Ibaka, who set the tone for Oklahoma City by making his first seven shots. "A great win for us. We need that. It's about a team win."

Jackson just happened to make his return after missing the previous 14 games with a broken right pinkie finger.

The two had a chance for a confrontation in the first half when Jackson stood in the way as Ibaka went up to catch an alley-oop from Durant. Jackson stood his ground to prevent Ibaka from dunking, and Ibaka fell to the floor. But Jackson simply raised his hand to claim credit for the foul and peace prevailed.

"I'm leaving that alone," Jackson said. "It's all basketball. Whatever was said on the court is going to stay on the court and I'm going to leave it alone.

"I wish Serge the best."

The Spurs never found an answer for Ibaka, who had just four points while fighting foul trouble in Oklahoma City's season-opening loss at San Antonio. He finished 10 for 16 from the field, led the Thunder to a 49-37 rebounding advantage and also blocked three shots.

"He hurt us bad. ... He was hitting everything," said Jackson, who apologized to Ibaka on Twitter after the initial post.

"That's the same way we lost last year in the playoffs, by him hitting those same shots. I take my hat off. He played a great game tonight."

The teams hadn't faced each other at Chesapeake Energy Arena since the Thunder overcame a 2-0 deficit in last season's Western Conference finals by winning the next four games. The Spurs drew a measure of revenge in the season opener by beating Oklahoma City on Tony Parker's jumper as time expired.

There were no such dramatics in this one, with Parker and Tim Duncan remaining out of the game even after James Anderson stole an ill-advised Ibaka pass and ran out for a two-handed dunk to get the deficit down to 93-84 with 5:29 remaining.

The Spurs came up empty on two possessions with chances to make it closer before Kevin Martin sank a 3-pointer. Ibaka -- who else? -- and Durant each had two-handed slams in the final minutes to ice it.

"It was just another game on the list for us," said Kevin Durant, who scored 19. "We really respect this team, we really knew it was going to be a tough game. It was good for us to get a win, but we've got to keep moving on."

Parker and Nando De Colo had 14 points apiece to lead the Spurs. Manu Ginobili did not play because he bruised his left quadriceps in Saturday's win at Boston.

Russell Westbrook chipped in 22 points and nine assists and Kevin Martin scored 20 for the Thunder, who had no interest in fanning the flames on the Ibaka-Jackson feud.

"I think he's just a great player and it showed again tonight," teammate Thabo Sefolosha said.

Westbrook didn't even want to admit knowing about the bad blood.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said

Ibaka had five baskets in the first 6 minutes, including three in a row to wipe away an early 16-10 deficit. He and Martin combined to go 10 for 10 and score 23 points as Oklahoma City then opened a 33-26 lead after Martin's three-point play to start the second quarter.

"I think he got us all going and throughout the whole game, really he made some big plays, made some big shots," Sefolosha said.

San Antonio rallied behind its reserves and went up 41-39 on Tiago Splitter's basket underneath before the Thunder pushed ahead for good with a 12-2 response.

Oklahoma City stretched its lead with 11 straight points during the third quarter, punctuated by Nick Collison's putback that made it 71-56 with 4:27 remaining in the period.

The Spurs tried going to their cornerstones to break up the spurt but Duncan had the ball stolen by Westbrook and then a shot blocked by Ibaka on consecutive possessions and Parker followed by missing a corner 3-pointer off the side of the backboard and then getting a fast-break layup swatted by Durant.

Collison then scored off of Sefolosha's missed 3-pointer, and it was on the next possession that Ibaka flexed his muscles after grabbing three straight offensive rebounds.

"He's growing every single day," Durant said. "He's shooting the jumper well, he's taking guys off the dribble. Of course, you know he blocks shots and rebounds but his offensive game is expanding and that's what we need."

NOTES: After playing 16 of their first 24 games at home, Oklahoma City plays 15 of its next 21 games on the road. The roughest stretch is another three weeks away, when the Thunder play 11 of 13 games away. ... Referee Bennett Salvatore called a technical foul from across the court against Spurs coach Gregg Popovich as he complained to official Scott Twardowski after calling a timeout during Oklahoma City's 11-0 third-quarter run. ... Oklahoma City's last 11-game win streak was in 1996 as the Seattle SuperSonics.

Serge Ibaka (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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