LOS ANGELES — Kevin Durant could have simply walked out of the Thunder locker room Monday night without saying another word, but Durant faces his inquisitors win or lose.
The Lakers beat the Thunder 101-94 on Martin Luther King Day inside Staples Center, where Durant's recent dead-eye shooting suddenly went dead.
The LA way of thinking believed it was solely due to the defensive clamps applied by Lakers forward Ron Artest, a physical defender who gave Durant fits during the first round of last year's playoffs (see chart).
The Lakers ended the series in Game 6 in Oklahoma City, where Durant shot 5-of-23 from the floor. Monday was the first meeting between the teams since then and Durant misfired at 8-for-23.
“Ron is physical,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Artest. “He's always in your face. He's never going to give you a lot of room to operate, that's why he's the special defender that he is. He's not going to give KD any easy shots.”
Durant gave Artest some credit Monday, but not all of it.
“We got some good looks,” Durant said.
The Thunder shot 2-for-22 from 3-point range, and Durant was 1-for-8. It was a streaky night for Durant, who missed his first two shots of the game, made his next four, missed his next eight, made his next two … you get the idea.
“We had some good opportunities,” Durant said.
For several minutes in his postgame interview session, Durant essentially was asked the same question, though the words were rearranged a bit.
Kevin, talk about the defense the Lakers played against you? Did they do anything special defensively? Why did you struggle against the defense? Do you think their defense caused your problems?
A string of inquiries came from the same guy, who either forgot he already had asked the question, was a lousy listener, or flat-out didn't want to accept Durant's answers. That same inquisitor later addressed Jeff Green as “Russell” with his initial question.
Some athletes cut an interview short when they hear a question they don't like or have heard the same query one too many times. Instead, Durant answered questions — multiple times.
Durant: “We got some good looks.”
Durant: “We got some good looks. I just missed 'em.”
Durant: “I got great looks, like I just said. Some went in, some didn't. It is what it is, man. It's going to happen like that some nights.”
Durant gave it another try, becoming more emphatic in hopes somebody finally would believe him.
“I missed 'em,” Durant said. “We got some good looks. I'd be honest with you. If they were playing great defense, I'd be able to tell you. I got the ball where I wanted to get it, it just didn't go down for me. It happens like that. Just have to keep my head up, keep being positive, go forward.”
As Durant's voiced tailed off, his punch line came in a whisper that was followed by a quiet laugh: “Of course, everybody's going to say I got shut down.”
Durant recently has been asked about his hot streak shooting the ball, a string of 13 games and 55.2-percent shooting capped by a 13-for-17 performance last Thursday against Orlando.
Not only was Durant hitting shots from all angles, he wasn't hitting much iron while doing so, wearing out nets everywhere he went.
Durant gave modest acknowledgments of his shooting prowess and said he would continue to hone his craft with hard work, arriving early, staying late and staying humble.
In the same breath, Durant also acknowledged you never know when the shots might stop falling.
Monday was such a time. Will the touch return Wednesday night in Denver?
KEVIN DURANT VS. LAKERS
(2010 PLAYOFF SERIES)