Kevin Durant grabbed a rebound 15 seconds into the game. Then he kept grabbing rebounds. Five in the first 5 1/2 minutes. Ten by halftime. Sixteen through three quarters.
Of course, rebounds were plentiful in the Thunder's 102-72 rout of the Bulls on Sunday night. Chicago missed 38 shots in the first half and 51 through three quarters, which is all Durant played.
But still, 16 rebounds is a fair amount on a night when Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins were on the ornery side themselves. Ibaka had five rebounds the first nine minutes; Perk had five rebounds the first 8 1/2 minutes.
When Durant wasn't battling Bulls for errant shots, he was battling his fellow frontcourt mates.
So despite missing 13 of his first 17 shots, Durant still had a mighty impact on the game. Six assists and 16 rebounds are nice subsidiaries for the NBA's leading scorer.
“It says a lot about him,” said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau. “Durant didn't have a great shooting night (six of 19). He missed some shots he normally makes. But what he did do, he went to another area.
“That's how you help your team win. That's critical. The nights in which you don't shoot the ball like you normally do, you do other things to help your team win.
“You set your teammates up, you rebound the ball and play great defense, and that's what he's doing. He's showing what a complete player he is.”
Of course, LeBron James is ruining that complete-player tag for all other players. Hard to laud a game like Durant's Sunday night when LeBron has uncorked a series of monster performances.
But truth is, Durant is better than ever. He's scoring like always, shooting better than ever, rebounding forcefully and passing well. And when Durant's shot is off, he's still a dominant player for the Thunder.
“I wish I could have made more shots,” Durant said. “Hopefully, I get that thing back and be ready for the next game.”
Let's not pretend Durant is in some kind of slump. Not since December has he gone back-to-back games shooting under 50 percent, and even then his percentages were in the mid-40s.
But last Wednesday in Houston, when Durant made just four of 13 shots, he still produced just the second triple-double of his career, with 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
Similar game Sunday night, and Durant might very well have tripled-doubled again, had the Bulls been courteous enough to make this a ballgame and require Durant to play the fourth quarter.
“I wish I could have made more shots,” Durant repeated. “Just tried to do everything else for the team.”
Thibodeau might very well have used Durant as an example to the Bulls. Thibodeau spent an inordinate amount before emerging from the locker room, then expressed displeasure with his squad's selfishness.
“You have to do what's best for the team, not necessarily what's best for yourself or what will get yourself going,” Thibodeau said. “You can't get stuck in whatever problems you're having individually. You have to do your job for the team first.”
Durant had some problems individually. He made only three of 13 first-half shots.
Didn't matter. The maturation of a superstar continues. Durant found other ways to dominate.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.