There were two things Kevin Durant couldn't get out of his mind just before burying the latest clutch bucket of his young career.
One was the costly defensive mistake that had just put his team in a tight spot. The other was the assurance that one of the Oklahoma City Thunder's rookies screamed in his ear.
After sinking far enough off Dallas guard Vince Carter to allow him to catch a pass and can a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to put the Mavs up one with 1.4 seconds left, Durant walked back to the bench dialed in on doing something good.
“He was focused,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of Durant in the ensuing timeout.
Said Durant: “All I remember coming to the bench was Reggie Jackson screaming I was going to make the last shot. I just tried to be confident and tell myself I can make it and luckily I did.”
The play unfolded like so many we saw last season. Durant caught an inbounds pass from Thabo Sefolosha on the right wing. He turned and faced as the clock began to tick. As Durant launched, he flicked his wrist to release a high-arching rainbow over helpless Mavs guard Jason Terry. When it splashed through the net in unison with the sound of the final buzzer, it signaled a 104-102 Thunder win Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant turned, untucked his jersey and raced in triumph toward his mother who was sitting courtside.
“I had a great angle, and I knew it was right on target. I just didn't know the distance,” Brooks said. “But it looked good from the start.”
Durant finished with a game-high 30 points, his fourth straight performance with at least that many. He added 11 rebounds and six assists to help the Thunder move to 4-0.
“As a kid, of course you dream about hitting the game-winning shot in the NBA, so it's a dream come true,” Durant said.
The shot was Durant's third buzzer-beating game-winner of his four-plus years. Durant defeated Atlanta on the road as a rookie and stole one from New York in January last season.
“It's special to hit a game-winner,” Durant said. “The season's still young. But to beat the champs is always pretty cool.”
Durant, the reigning two-time scoring champ, appears to be putting together his best start to a season. Through four games, he's averaging 31.2 points on 57.3 percent shooting.
“Right now, he's probably the best player in the league with what he has been doing in the first four games,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
Durant said, if anything, his mentality has developed.
“I feel more confident in myself,” Durant said. “No matter how bad or how good the game's going, I always want to be positive and tell the guys that things can get better. I think this game is mental, and I'm just trying to change my mental aspect of it and be more of a leader.”