Kendrick Perkins has become a bit of a divisive figure in OKC, with the criticism reaching back to some of his highs and lows during the 2012 Playoffs. As we noted over the weekend, his critics are often as inaccurate as they are on point. Our friends in Celtics-land immediately responded, "Hey, if you don't want the big guy, we'll GLADLY take him off your hands."
The general sentiment is unlikely to change until we get to the playoffs and Perkins has to deal with the Tim Duncan's and Chris Bosh's of the world again, but in the meantime we can note that amidst all the clamor for trading/amnestying/benching Perkins, there he was, last night, helping to make game-deciding defensive plays.
Play 1: Perkins gets LaMarcus Aldridge one-on-one and does a great job staying front of the big man. Aldridge is a prolific scorer and frequently torches the Thunder. Last night was no different, with Aldridge putting up 33 points and kept his team in the game. In this play, Perkins does a great job turning Aldridge into the lane where he knows help will come and forces him into an off-balance fadeaway shot. Unfortunately, 2 Thunder players mistimed the rebound and nobody saw fit to box out Nicolas Batum, so Batum was there to get the put-back lay-in.
Play 2: The Trail Blazers get a huge steal in the backcourt and the explosive Batum winds up with the ball and a full head of steam driving to the rim. Perkins does an exceptional job covering the rim, forcing Batum to shoot the lay-up with his off-hand, doesn't foul, secures the rebound, and gets fouled.
Play 3: The game is riding on this defensive sequence. Aldridge gets the call once more and he has Perkins on an island. The Thunder do a great job forcing Aldridge into a spot on the court where he has only one option, and Perkins forces him out far and wide to a zone where he is not comfortable. One airballed shot later, the Thunder have their win all but locked up.
The critics will still hum away, but give the Yung Hawg his due; he stepped up big time when his team needed him the most and as a result OKC got a huge win in the Rose Garden.