For two and a half quarters, Kevin Durant never got really going.
Perhaps it was the foul trouble – Durant had three at halftime. Perhaps it was his lack of production rebounding – he had just two half. Maybe it was an absence of shots – Durant had just six at halftime and only eight through the first 30 minutes.
This is the league’s MVP, and sure he’s played in just 11 games this season, but it’s hard not to wonder why when Durant seems so disengaged like he was for the first part of Friday night’s game.
But after his wild finish, it’s hard not to just ask how’d he do it again.
Durant was so good, so efficient and so effective, he carried the Thunder to a 109-102 win over Washington.
It was the kind of game where you shake your head in amazement. It’s also the kind of game where you start thinking what it will take to become a repeat MVP.
"He can get it going like he did," said Wizards forward Rasaul Butler. "One of the best players in the league. Just do your best and hopes he misses a few."
Hope might be the best defense on Durant these days. In his last 10 quarters Durant has missed only 19 shots. In the last 90 minutes of game time, Durant has 108 points on just 55 shots and has made 15-of-24 3-point tries.
How good was Friday?
Durant was Prius efficient. He went 12-of-18, made four-of-seven 3-pointers and scored a game-high 34 points – 23 after halftime in just 31 minutes. Westbrook missed 15 shots in nearly 30 minutes.
Naturally, the Thunder are better with Durant who has sat more than he’s starred this season. Overall, the Thunder are 14-3 with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in the lineup and the Thunder are 9-2 when Durant plays, including a loss where he sat out the second half against Golden State.
"I could be better," Durant said. "I could be better. All aspects of the game."
Really? Well, the line to make suggestions to Durant is a short one. It’s pretty hard to be picky. The Thunder, once 3-12 on the season have gotten even now at 17-17, thanks in part to what Durant has done, including Friday when he didn’t just get going, he took over.
In the last 42 seconds of the third quarter Durant had a defensive rebound, a 24-foot 3-pointer, another defensive rebound and a 26-foot 3-pointer. The lead went from eight with 1:37 left in the quarter to tied heading into the fourth.
"I try to simplify it as much as I can," Durant said. "I know where I can get my shots and be effective and I know how to use my teammates. I was out for awhile. I learned a lot."
What the Thunder have learned is they are – predictably – not the same team without Durant. A sleepy first half by Durant wasn’t even a problem. Brooks said he wasn’t worried. A Westbrook ejection in the second half last time out was handled. Durant saved that game with a clutch 3-pointer with just more than 90 seconds left.
"I always felt into it. Foul trouble is part of it," Durant said. "Coach is going to run plays for me and I’m going to be aggressive."
Aggressive, sluggish, missed shots, made shots. Seems the formula is a simple one for the Thunder this year: