Updated: March 6, 2012, 1:11 PM ET

Best In West: Thunder's Size Tells The Story

Levy By Ian Levy
TrueHoop Network
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The Oklahoma City Thunder made a statement Monday, taking a measure of revenge for last year's playoff defeat, and beating the Mavericks for the third time in four games this season 95-91.

Dallas was admittedly shorthanded, playing without Brandan Wright and Brendan Haywood, whose night was ended by an ankle sprain, just 31 seconds into the game. Ian Mahinmi played well in Haywood's absence but the Mavericks were simply overwhelmed on the interior.

Russell Westbrook
Richard Rowe/US PresswireRussell Westbrook had 24 points for the Thunder, whose 30-8 record now stands best in the West.

Thunder big men Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka were the eye of the bumping, chucking, high-flying, disruptive storm. They combined for 21 rebounds, 9 at the offense end, 7 blocks, and a bushel of menacing stares. More than just inside force, they kept Dallas off balance all night, squeezing their empty space and rushing them through their sets.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points, but had to work for every single one of them. He struggled to get to his spots below the free throw line, and in the end resorted to floating on the perimeter, attempting six 3-pointers.

The Mavericks did a great job defending Kevin Durant, holding him to 22 points on 6-for-18 shooting with 7 turnovers. But they couldn't keep the Thunder off the offensive glass and couldn't keep James Harden, Durant and Westbrook off the line. In the end digging themselves a 19-point hole at the free throw line meant that forcing the Thunder into tough shots was moot.

Neither team played well down the stretch, but the Thunder made the plays they needed to win. The Mavericks' final seven possessions netted them as many turnovers as points, three, and showed a surprising lack of offensive cohesion. The Thunder scored on five of their final seven possessions, netting 10 points, just one of which came from Durant.

The Thunder are particularly frightening because of the three-headed monster they unleash at the offensive end of the floor. But if they can also win consistently with stout interior defense and intestinal fortitude, on a night when those three offensive stars combine to shoot 16-for-49 from the field, then the rest of the league has a whole lot more to worry about.

Ian Levy's work appears on the TrueHoop network's The Two Man Game

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