DALLAS – How many players can go 13-for-31 from the floor and finish with 52 points?
Kevin Durant is the first in the league to score 50 this season and the Oklahoma City Thunder needed every last one of his career high to secure a sixth consecutive win, downing the Dallas Mavericks 117-114 in overtime.
It goes down as one of the stranger constructions to the half-century mark with Durant going 8-for-22 on 2-point shots, 5-for-9 from beyond the arc and a season-best 21-for-21 from the free-throw line.
The Mavs thought they did a pretty good job of making things tough for the spindly Durant only to look up to see the scoreboard exploding. What can you say?
“You don’t have to say nothing when you do that,” said teammate Russell Westbrook, who dropped 31 points in the game. “You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to say nothing at all. There isn’t nothing to say. Plain and simple.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had this to say: “He’s a great player. Best offensive player on the planet. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
Durant had 31 points on 50 percent shooting through three quarters and Oklahoma City led 81-72. The Thunder led by as many as 14 in the quarter as well as in the first half, but could never land a knockout blow. Then they nearly lost it in the fourth quarter. Durant suddenly went cold, missing 9-of-11 shots in the period. Yet he hit a jumper with 2:07 to go and then sank six free throws in the final 1:32. Westbrook’s two free throws with 5.9 seconds left put the Thunder up 105-102 and figured to end Durant’s night with 43 points.
O.J. Mayo tied it on a big-time 3 with 2.3 seconds to go, leaving enough time for Durant to get off a decent 20-footer that bounced high off the rim. Durant grabbed the ball and slammed it into the hardwood and smacked it back into his hands.
“I was upset with myself in the fourth quarter,” Durant said. “I missed so many shots and I wasn’t taking it to the rim. I wasn’t putting pressure on the defense, so I was just trying to make up for it in overtime.”
Durant’s OT got off to an inauspicious start. He threw the ball away on the opening possession and then fouled Vince Carter on a 3-ball. Carter made all three free throws and Dallas led 108-105. Then Durant made two more free throws, buried a 3-pointer with 2:05 to play for a 112-110 lead, hit a fallaway leaner going one-on-one with Mayo to retake the lead, 114-113, and then dropped the dagger, a 12-foot floater over Shawn Marion, for a 116-114 lead with 16.9 seconds to go.
“Experience is helping me a lot,” Durant said. “Just knowing if I look like I’m out there panicking, my teammates are going to be looking the same way. So I’ve got to be cool. If I miss a shot, so be it. I’m sure the opportunity will come back around sooner or later. So I’ve just got to be cool and be confident.”
Which describes KD at the free-throw line where he’s shooting 90.6 percent on the season and remains on line to accomplish the ultra-rare 50-40-90 trifecta — 50 percent field-goal percentage, 40 percent on 3s and 90 percent from the free-throw line.
Durant’s free throws went like this: 5-for-5 in the first quarter; 1-for-1 in the second; 5-for-5 in the third; 8-for-8 in the fourth; and 2-for-2 in OT. He was two shy of tying Dominique Wilkins for most consecutive free throws made in a regular-season game.
“For a guy getting 52, I think this is about as good as you can guard him,” said Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who knows something about stringing free throws, having made an NBA playoff-record 24 in a row against the Thunder in Game 1 of the 2011 West finals. “Obviously, I think we could have kept him off the line on some occasions where we reach in or, you know, he gets to the line because he’s Kevin Durant.”
It’s good to be Kevin Durant. There’s really nothing more to say about that.