HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Kevin Durant is binging at the free throw line.
The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar has scored 89 points in the last two games and 41 — 46.1 percent — have come uncontested from 15 feet away. He’s taken 42 free throws in his last 99 minutes played, and all on the road where it’s supposedly tougher to get calls.
After setting a career-best mark by making all 21 free throw attempts in an overtime win at Dallas on Friday, Durant went 20-for-21 in an overtime loss Sunday at Denver. The one miss was costly, giving OKC just a one-point lead with 1:44 to go in the OT. The lead disappeared for good on Denver’s next possession.
Dallas’ Shawn Marion, who typically guards Durant more than any other Mavs player, was so irked by his opponent’s constant march to the foul line that it prompted him afterward to say it’s “hard to beat anybody when you’re playing five-on-eight,” a not-to-subtle suggestion that the three referees were siding with the Thunder. The league fined Marion $25,000 on Sunday.
Durant ranks second in the league with 384 free throw attempts (9.4 per game) at the official halfway mark of the season. He trails only Houston Rockets guard and former teammate James Harden, who has 402 attempts in 41 games for a league-best 9.8 attempts per game. Dwight Howard, third in total attempts (361 in 37 games), is just fractions behind Harden in per-game attempts at 9.76.
Unlike Howard, a 50.4-percent free throw shooter this season, Durant cashes in most of his attempts. He ranks third in the league at 90.9 percent behind teammate Kevin Martin (91.6) and Sacramento’s Jimmer Fredette (91.4).
A whopping 28.9 percent of Durant’s total points this season have come at the stripe. Among the game’s top-five scorers, only No. 5 Harden (25.8 ppg) gets more of his points (32.3 percent) at the free throw line than Durant, who sits at No. 2 in scoring (29.5 ppg) and is closing fast on leader Kobe Bryant (29.6 ppg), who gets 22.4 percent of his points at the foul line.
No. 3 Carmelo Anthony (29.2 ppg) earns 22.1 percent of his points at the free throw line, while LeBron James (26.3 ppg) gets just 17.7 percent.
Sunday marked the third time this season that Durant has attempted 21 free throws in a game (he went 19-for-21 on Nov. 21 against the Clippers). The last two games marked the fifth time this season that he’s had back-to-back games with double-figure free throw attempts and he’s attempted at least 10 free throws in a game 17 times this season.
Still, Durant would need many more games of 20-plus free throw attempts to get anywhere near the NBA record for most attempts in a season. Wilt Chamberlain holds down the top five spots in that category with a seemingly impossible-to-top, all-time best of 1,363 free throw attempts in 80 games during the 1961-62 season.
Durant is on pace for 768 free throw attempts, which would still be a good ways off from his career-best of 840 attempts in the 2009-10 season, and would only tie Kobe’s 2006-07 season total for 94th best all-time.