Kevin Durant had a first half so horrid Wednesday night, it wasn't outlandish to wonder if the NBA's three-time scoring champ was physically ill.
Durant was noticeably sluggish and listless. He couldn't hang onto the basketball, much less shoot it.
Yet by the end of the night, the four-time All-Star had his 16th double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds. He also got to sit out the fourth quarter for the 13th time this season as the Thunder cruised to a 110-87 rout over the Utah Jazz.
A sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena watched in disbelief as Durant committed six turnovers in his first 15 minutes of play, and did so with a multiple attack — bad pass; lost ball out of bounds (twice); lost ball (twice); discontinued dribble.
The best thing Durant did in the first half actually occurred while he was taking warm-up shots at halftime.
A woman tripped and fell behind the Thunder bench. Durant stopped shooting and rushed to help the elderly fan back to her feet. The fleet-footed Durant was the first to offer assistance to the woman, who was shaken, but not seriously injured.
Less than 90 seconds into the second half, Durant had committed his seventh turnover with a bad pass and stepped out of bounds for his eighth shortly before exiting one turnover shy of his career worst.
When Kevin Martin came in to replace him with 4:45 left in the first quarter, Durant seemed stunned and out of sorts. He left the court taking baby steps and had a faraway look on his face.
Durant insists he was not ill, nor had the right chest contusion from earlier this season flared up again.
“I was just upset with myself, missed a few early shots,” Durant said. “As a player, you've got to get through that. I think tonight I did a good job of it.”
Durant indeed rediscovered his scoring prowess after halftime. After starting the game 1 for 6, Durant hit six straight shots. In the third quarter alone, he had 15 points, five rebounds and a blocked shot.
Durant credits teammate Russell Westbrook for bringing him back from the abyss.
“He was just his normal self, getting to the lane, wrecking havoc, passing, rebounding. He played well,” Durant said of Westbrook, who had 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. “I was struggling early on really bad and I was down on myself. My teammates came to my rescue, I guess, but he (Westbrook) was the main guy. I really appreciate him doing that for me because he could have easily let me fall to the wayside, but he kept me involved, kept my spirits up and that's a good thing for your point guard to do. So, he was great to me.”
Durant left the game for good with 2:30 left in the third quarter and OKC leading 76-47.
“Just a slow start, turned the ball over too many times,” Durant said. “I don't care who you are, what type player you are, if you have confidence issues and you turn the ball over so many times, miss so many shots, you get down on yourself. I want to do so well all the time, sometimes I can't do that well. I get down on myself and I'm still learning how to get out of that, but Russell was the guy who was always encouraging me, always trying to find me, get me open shots, get me easy shots and that got me going in the third.”