DALLAS — Kevin Durant was down in the dumps — again — through the first half, frustrated for the third straight game and, this time, virtually invisible in the third quarter.
The best scorer on the planet had attempted as many shots going into the final period as Mavs role players Mike James and Jae Crowder.
Then it clicked.
The light went on and Durant went off.
Durant scored 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Thunder to a 107-101 victory over Dallas on Sunday night inside American Airlines Center. Durant played the entire fourth quarter, made seven of 11 shots, two of three 3-pointers and all three of his foul shots.
“I thought at some point in the game he kind of got frustrated a little bit,” said Thabo Sefolosha, who stuck the dagger in Dallas on a fadeaway with 12.5 seconds remaining. “It was good that he was able to turn it around and put it on himself to just work harder and get some baskets. That was great on him. It shows maturity on his part.”
After sitting on 12 points on 3-for-5 shooting through halftime Sunday, Durant has now averaged just 10.7 points on 40 percent shooting in the past three first halves. In the third quarter against the Mavs, Durant was scoreless in eight minutes, missing all three of his shots while grabbing just one rebound and turning it over once.
He finished the game with just one assist against six turnovers.
“I was frustrated with myself early on,” Durant admitted. “I wanted to stick with it, and my teammates kept coming to me so I just tried to come through for them.”
Durant's onslaught started with the Thunder trailing by one inside the final 10 minutes. He produced 12 of the Thunder's next 14 points. He hit a jumper off a curl, converted a three-point play on a driving layup, knocked down a 3, snaked his way to another layup and got a runner to fall.
By then, it was his ballgame.
“You just try to listen to him and try to se what he has going on,” Sefolosha said of playing alongside Durant when he's rolling. “If he calls the pick you go and set a pick. If he wants to play his man one-on-one you just let him go.”
The Mavs, as they've historically have done, kept it interesting.
Dallas, despite Dirk Nowitzki growing cold after an 8-for-8 start, found a way to match Durant almost shot for shot. James, the 37-year-old Dallas point guard, put on a scoring spree of his own, scoring eight straight Mavs points to keep them in it.
Nowitzki later nailed four straight free throws to tie the score at 101, but Russell Westbrook (game-high 35 points, six rebounds and six assists) hit a 17-foot jumper and the Thunder forced the Mavs into a shot-clock violation. After 23 seconds of swarming defense, the defensive possession ended with Durant blocking a desperation shot by James as the clock expired.
Sefolosha then swished his baseline jumper that all but ended it, and the Thunder forced Vince Carter into a missed layup before Durant iced the game with a pair of foul shots.
“Every time we play Dallas we should just start the game and say it's a two-minute game, zero-zero,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Every game seems to come down to the last two or three minutes of the game.”
The victory was the Thunder's 10th straight over the Mavs and booked its 50th win of the season, the third time in four years that OKC will have won at least 50 games.
Serge Ibaka scored 18 points with a game-high 16 rebounds and three blocked shots to help the Thunder control the paint and out-rebound the Mavs 46-34. Westbrook scored 31 of his points through three quarters, including 14 in the opening period and 15 in the third frame.
“Everybody has a role and everybody has to believe in that role and try to make the best of that role and embrace that role,” Brooks said. “And I thought our guys did that tonight. There were so many opportunities for guys to step up and they did.”