LOS ANGELES — Kevin Durant said it felt the same. Said this playoff stage seemed like just another game. But who believes him? Who believes that a 21-year-old who over five months has gone from star to supernova didn’t feel the weight of the NBA world on his spindly shoulders as he walked into the Staples Center on Sunday? For the Thunder to scare the world’s most famous basketball team, to avoid turning into a caviar appetizer for the Lakers’ celebrity crowd, to take this series back to Oklahoma City with a sliver of hope for an historic upset, Durant has to play well. And he didn’t. Durant stunk up the Staples Center in the Thunder’s 87-79 loss Sunday. Missed the game’s opening shot, a 19-footer. Then missed his easiest shot of the night, a lob-pass layup. And finally threw up a wayward prayer hoping to get a foul call on that rip move he’s trotted all over the league. No whistle. All in the first four minutes. By game’s end, Durant had his fourth-worst shooting game of the season, 7-of-24, and 24 hollow points. Twenty-four points on 24 shots is not winning basketball, and Durant knew it. The Thunder "could have come here and got a W,” Durant said. "If I make four or five more shots, maybe it’s a different game.” Durant tossed out a variety of words to describe his NBA playoff debut. Tough. Discouraging. Frustrated. "I got some great looks, and I wasn’t able to make them,” Durant said. "That’s discouraging. I was frustrated. I kept missing shots that looked good when they left my hand.” Not all the misses were artistic treasures. Durant launched a couple of air balls and also had a few emotion-induced wild shots. "There were stretches of the game he was pressing, there’s no doubt,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "It wasn’t because he was nervous. He was frustrated. Kevin’s a prideful player. I like the fact that he’s frustrated. "He just has to realize there’s gonna be nights when he doesn’t score.” And while Kobe Bryant wasn’t much better for the Lakers — 6-of-19, 21 points — check the rosters. LA can win with a clunker from Kobe. The Thunder can’t survive on this stage with Durant going 7-of-24. But don’t bury the Thunder yet. It got pistol-whipped in the first quarter, its star never came around and still this was a game with 2:35 left, the Lakers leading just 79-73 when Russell Westbrook was called for a dubious foul while blocking Pau Gasol’s jumper. Aside from Westbrook, no Boomer played great, and Durant reeked, and still the Lakers were threatened. If Durant reverts to form, and his teammates just play to their Sunday level, OKC will stick around this series for a while. Will Durant find himself? Well, Michael Jordan wasn’t so hot in his playoff debut 25 Aprils ago. In a 109-100 loss at Milwaukee in 1985, Jordan made seven of 19 shots and scored 23 points. If you hadn’t heard, Jordan eventually worked out his playoff problems. Of course, the 1985 Bucks didn’t have Ron Artest giving MJ mouth-to-mouth. The orange-haired Artest, one of the NBA’s best defenders, dogged Durant most of the game and will again Tuesday night in Game 2. "Artest does a good job,” said chief Thunder screener Nick Collison, "and he has big guys behind him, so we are going to have to give Kevin more space.” Durant doesn’t need much wiggle room. And better yet, he doesn’t slump. Durant won the NBA scoring title in part because he followed poor games with a stretch of great games. Thirty-point games won’t come easy in the playoffs, but don’t expect another 7-of-24. And Phil Jackson’s referee-politicking didn’t pay off. Durant got 11 foul shots; Artest finished with five fouls. So there is reason for hope, Boomtown, and while Game 2 will have a playoff feel, too, expect Durant to be ready for this one. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
Game 2: Thunder at Lakers→When: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday →Where: Staples Center, L.A. →TV: TNT (Cox 31) →Radio: WWLS-AM 640, 98.1 FM →Live chat: http://newsok.com/sports/thunder