DENVER — Perhaps most shocking about Kevin Durant scoring 52 points against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night is that it marked only the second time in his career the NBA's three-time scoring champ had reached half-a-hundred.
And that's at any level — high school, college or pro. Durant modestly disregards his 66-point outing at Harlem's Rucker Park on Aug. 1, 2011.
Presumably more 50-plus outings await the Thunder's affable 24-year-old, who now trails Wilt Chamberlain by 116 career 50-point games.
Both of Durant's 50-point efforts required overtime for him to get there.
Durant played 49 minutes, 40 seconds as OKC edged the Mavericks 117-114 in overtime Friday at American Airlines Center.
“He's the best offensive player on the planet,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said afterward. “I don't think there's any question about that. There's some things we obviously could have done to limit him, and that's on me, too.”
Durant's previous career high was 51 points last season against the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena. In that same game, Russell Westbrook had 40 points and nine assists and Serge Ibaka posted his first triple-double with 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocked shots.
Denver (24-18) happens to be the next opponent for the Thunder (32-8), which will be looking for its seventh straight victory. Tipoff is 7 p.m. Sunday at the Pepsi Center.
The last player to have consecutive 50-point games was Kobe Bryant, who had four straight 50-plus outings from March 16-23, 2007.
Durant's performance against Dallas was the NBA's first 50-point game this season. In the process, he lifted his season scoring average from 28.7 to 29.3 to slip past New York's Carmelo Anthony (29.2) as the league's second-leading scorer behind Bryant (29.7).
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.”
CAREER 50-POINT GAMES
Wilt Chamberlain: 118
Michael Jordan: 39
Kobe Bryant: 24
Elgin Baylor: 18
Rick Barry: 15
Allen Iverson: 11