DALLAS — Very rarely will a 40-point explosion in a conference final be made a footnote.
But thanks to Dirk Nowitzki's historic performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, that's exactly what became of the scoring outburst by Kevin Durant.
It was an afterthought.
“That's hard to do,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Durant, of course, doesn't mind. For the Oklahoma City Thunder's star forward, it's never about his scoring output. It's always about the outcome. And the Thunder's 121-112 loss to Dallas didn't sit well with Durant.
“I didn't play well because we lost,” Durant said Wednesday. “That's how I feel. I missed a lot of shots that I thought I should have made. I missed a free throw. I had a few turnovers. So I didn't play the game I wanted to play. But it's always next game.”
Listen to Durant downgrade his dominance and you can't help but roll your eyes.
In the biggest game of his NBA career, Durant went on the road and torched the Mavs with an array of jumpers, drives and floaters. He made 10-of-18 shots, buried 18 of 19 free throws and had eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks, all team-highs.
It was the type of game that gave us the latest shred of evidence that Durant is evolving into one of the game's most unstoppable forces right before our eyes. Thus far, Durant has turned these playoffs into his personal playground.
In 13 games this postseason, Durant has scored at least 35 points five times. Tuesday's scoring tally was his third 40-point game. And when the pressure was thickest, Durant found ways to deliver for his team like a true superstar. In the closeout Game 5 against Denver, Durant scored 41 points in 42 minutes. In Game 7 against Memphis, Durant poured in 39 points in 39 minutes. Had he gotten any of his customary help from his teammates against the Mavs on Tuesday, the basketball world would have been talking about Durant rather than Nowitzki's 48-point effort and 24-of-24 marksmanship from the foul line.
“Durant's still very young in his career. But what he's done in this four-year period of time and internationally and everything else, he's one of the best scorers that anybody's ever seen,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle.
Durant leads all scorers in the 2011 playoffs with a 29.8-point average. He's shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from the 3-point line while averaging 41.6 minutes.