A Daily Babble Production
In the game of his life, it was once more both the best of times and the worst of times for Celtics center Kendrick Perkins.
In so many ways, the rest of the team followed suit in an enormously important and equally nerve-racking 106-102 victory in Game 5 over the Pistons last night.
Like his teammates did as a whole, in the span of 48 regulation basketball minutes in one evening, Perk managed to show just how good he can be when he wants to -- and why he is consistently so maddening a figure for the green faithful.
Here I had thought that we had gotten the 'step-up' effort from Perk with his 12-point, 10-rebound performance in Game 3 in Detroit. Little did I know that he would outdo those figures in the first half alone on Wednesday.
For most of the evening, he was simply outstanding. Perk played as smooth a game as we have ever seen from him offensively, and he controlled the glass, actually outrebounding the entire Detroit team in the first half. He saved possessions with put-backs, created a couple of his own shots in the paint, came up with two big-time blocks and more. It was a virtuoso performance, with Perk even nabbing two steals and staying out of his patented brand of foul trouble throughout the early portion of the game. He more than earned the 18 points (8-for-11 shooting), 16 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals listed on his stat line.
In a game right up there in importance with some of the biggest this group has played all year, Kendrick Perkins gave us about as wonderful an overall effort as we could have ever imagined.
But he was still human, too. Still shades of same-old-Kendrick.
As superb as he was through most of the night, we still saw many of the familiar symptoms of the issues that have long plagued Perk's game. He got over-excited offensively and walked in the third quarter of what was then a 14-point contest. While the defensive rotations were there from him most of the night, he still made a couple of key mistakes. In particular, Perk was directly responsible for the third and fourth of Rasheed Wallace's six treys. On both occasions, Perk got beat on a standard Pistons pick-and-pop when he came out to hedge on the guard and then wound up following said guard to the rim while completely ignoring Sheed on the back side. In both instances, the simple hedge gave the Celtic guard time to recover with the ball handler, and Perk should have been looking to get back to his man. Instead, Wallace canned two wide-open threes.
Meanwhile, the technical foul with less than three minutes to play is something that was just hard to stomach. I don't read lips, so I don't know what was or wasn't said by Perkins to the officials. What I do know is that he had been jawing with the Pistons all game, that he has gained a reputation around the league for his excessive banter, and -- most importantly -- that if he doesn't say anything at all, there is all but no way he provides the officials the impetus to 'T' him up in the first place. Yes, it's an emotional game, and maybe the officials were quick on the trigger with Perk, but far more often than not, the onus for receiving any technicals at that point in a close game goes on the player. Hard to exonerate Perk for this one.
The criticisms sound nitpicky, I know, but in the sort of game that often comes down to the 'little things,' it is those nitpicky aspects of the game that can make all the difference. Can't give away free points at the foul line. Really want to avoid leaving shooters open at the top of the circles. Since Perk's mostly-up-and-just-slightly-down evening seemed to parallel that of the team (more on that shortly), it seemd worth mentioning. And that's what it was: an evening that was almost completely 'up.' Please note that the complaints above don't even come close to outweighing the contributions Perk made in Game 5. For one more night, he was an absolute beast. But he was a human one, too. That's all.
Perk showed us his most lovable and frustrating sides, and so did the Celtics as a whole.
When they executed a 14-point turnaround to transform an eight-point deficit into a six-point halftime lead, and when they hopped out to a 17-point lead in the third quarter, they put on a masterfully artistic display to behold. The way the ball moved was outstanding. The bigs made good outlets. Rajon Rondo pushed the rock hard up the floor. Pierce, Garnett and -- yes! -- Ray Allen did the finishing that had been promised from this big three from day one.
Allen came up with his biggest game of the playoffs just when the team needed it, and he had ice in his veins on the jumper and free throws that helped ice the game. Garnett submitted an invaluable 33 points, including a ridiculous bank three late in the second quarter and several other end-of-shot-clock jumpers -- and he finished the job with two huh-yuge free throws in the waning seconds. Pierce took the ball strong to the tin. Doc had the rocks to yank SamIAm and keep him on the pine for the duration of the evening after one awful mishap in the back-court. The team defense went through stretches in which it utterly suffocated the Pistons. Raj went for 13 assists and six boards (an enormous rebounding performance by point guard standards), and it didn't hurt that he had a huge scoop lay-up with his left hand to put the Celtics back up six after a Chauncey Billups trey in the final five minutes.
But speaking of that Billups three -- a play on which Rondo seemed to forget that he was responsible for guarding a big game shooter and drifted away on the perimeter -- there was plenty of that maddening inconsistency as well. There was KG turning down several good looks at the basket to try to force passes for better ones, and it resulted in three passes being thrown away. There was Rondo continuing to float everything from shots that should have been taken up strong to cross-court passes. There were the silly off-the-ball fouls. We saw Sam Cassell have the ball pick-pocketed from him for an easy Detroit slam in the midst of the second quarter. And most frustrating, we saw the team play the score rather than the game (thanks, Jeff Van Gundy) when the lead grew large, and we saw the guys begin to panic once more when Detroit closed the gap and began to bring defensive pressure with consistent trapping.
"Maddening" really is the right word to describe these complaint-inducing portions of the game. Maddening because we've seen -- and keep seeing every night -- just how good this team can be. It's maddening because it makes me feel like the world's worst pessimist when I write paragraphs like the one above after a win like last night's, because the words really aren't meant to be as nitpicky as they sound.
Because when all is said and done, even though we should pay some mind to the flaws seen last night, what we should be thinking about on this day is only thing: One more win. One more win, baby. This team is one more win from the 2008 NBA Finals.
And the fellas in green got there because, despite what must seem like a mound of problems above, they played absolutely fantastic basketball for just enough of last night's game. Because they were the better team. Because they earned their way here.
It was an up-and-down night for the green, and that is something worth bearing in mind as the C's push forward on this playoff run.
But when all was said and done, the result was part of that 'up' side for last night. Truthfully, it's hard to ask for much more than that. So back to enjoying this wild ride we go.