Durant praises 'championship-level' Mavericks

Durant praises 'championship-level' Mavericks

Published Jan. 19, 2013 10:36 a.m. ET

At times, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked like arguably the NBA's top team Friday night in Dallas. And for certain stretches, the Mavericks seemed to be on par with an OKC team that currently possesses the league's best record at 32-8.

But the Mavs fell to 17-24 after a 117-114 overtime loss, and a big factor in the outcome was a career-high 52 points from Thunder superstar forward Kevin Durant.

Sitting at his locker, Durant, who shot 13-of-31 from the field and 21-of-21 from the free throw line, didn't seem like a guy who just had a career-night. Instead, he emphasized the shots he missed and applauded the play of his opponent.

Asked how a team with one of the Western Conference's poorest records could hang with his championship-contending Thunder, Durant praised the Mavericks, specifically head coach Rick Carlisle, reserve point guard Mike James and starters Dirk Nowitzki and O.J. Mayo.

"They got a championship-level coach and players," Durant said. "They've got some tough guys. Everybody stepped up for them. Mike James hit a big shot (in overtime). Dirk, of course hit some big shots, some free throws. O.J. Mayo. They got guys that are big-game players."

Minutes before entering the visiting locker room at American Airlines Center, Durant said on the ESPN broadcast that the Mavericks are a "championship-level team, no matter what their record is."

He also gave Carlisle some individual recognition, calling the Mavs coach "unbelievable."

"He does so many good things with those guys," Durant said.

Carlisle was just as kind when addressing Durant's 52-point performance.

"He's the best offensive player on the planet," Carlisle said. "I don't think there's any question about that."

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