Durant had a chance to end Friday's game in regulation, but his 20-footer with .03 remaining hit the back of the rim. Had the shot gone in, Durant would have finished with 45 points.
The Thunder led the Mavs by 14 midway through the third quarter and entered the fourth period with an 81-72 lead.
Despite shooting just 2 for 11 from the field in the final quarter, Durant maintained his composure and even flashed several smiles while accepting encouragement from teammates.
“Experience has helped me a lot,” Durant said afterward. “If I look like I'm out there panicking, my teammates will look at me and feel the same way. I've got to be cool. If I miss a shot, so be it. I'm sure opportunity will come back around sooner or later.”
Durant shot just 13 for 31 from the floor, but was 21 for 21 at the free-throw line.
“For a guy getting 52, I think this is about as well as you can guard him,” said Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who also has two career 50-point games. “Obviously, I think we could have kept him off the line on some occasions where we reach in or he gets to the line because he's Kevin Durant. Twenty-one (free throws) is too much, especially if he shoots them like a layup.”
Nowitzki would know about shooting too many free throws. In Game 1 of the 2011 Western Conference Finals against OKC, he went 24 for 24 from the line and finished with 48 points.
“It's hard to beat anybody when you're playing five on eight,” said Mavs forward Shawn Marion, referring to the three-man officiating crew. “That's nuts. Some of them were fouls. Some of them were questionable, but it is what it is.”
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CAREER 50-POINT GAMES
Wilt Chamberlain: 118
Michael Jordan: 39
Kobe Bryant: 24
Elgin Baylor: 18
Rick Barry: 15
Allen Iverson: 11