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Perk Pride

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A Daily Babble Production

I could probably say the following a bit more often to begin with, but it was undoubtedly true in Friday's game against the Blazers: It was a pleasure to watch Kendrick Perkins play last night.

Yes, he turned the ball over five times, and Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla each had a couple of baskets on his watch early in the game.  But that's the end of my complaining about the game he played in the Celtics' 93-78 win.

My happiness with Perk goes beyond his stat line last night, which was pretty good on its own: 12 points (2-of-4 from the field, 8-of-12 from the line), 12 rebounds (7 offensive).  It was the way he accumulated his production that did it for me  This was the Perk that seemed for a night to have found the balance between playing physical basketball and not crossing any after-the-play lines with the officials.

Playing against a Portland team that talked last year about how the Celtics effectively bullied them physically, Perk came out right from the opening tip (which he won over Greg Oden) to make sure the Blazers continued to feel as though they were in the little brother role.  He used his body well all night, boxing out hard and outmuscling the Portland players all night in battles for position down low.  At one point, ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy noted that Perk was "moving people."

That's exactly what it looked like all night.  Despite not blocking any shots, the big fella was right there as a presence in the middle all night, and he looked to have no problem clearing bodies out of his lane either.  Further, he chased down rebounds with an added panache.  These weren't cheap rebounds, which don't happen against a Portland team that hustles for everything off the glass.  Didn't matter.  It seemed as though Perk was mixing it up after every Celts miss, scrambling around Portland's bigs to pull down the board or at least tip the ball once or maybe even twice on a play to get it back out to the Celtics' guards.  Against the top offensive rebounding team in basketball, Perk's seven boards at that end of the floor helped the Celtics go plus-8 on the offensive glass.

The center wasn't too bad with the ball in his hands either.  He didn't try to go beyond his limits offensively, but when he got the ball down low, he looked to attack the rim, and he did so without too much of his past habit of bringing the ball down before elevating upwards.  Drawing six fouls and largely knocking down his freebies (8-for-12 is a nice step up for a guy shooting less than 60 percent from the foul line on the season) was really just a bonus. 

The double-bonus on top of that was the sweet dump pass he made in the fourth quarter last night after the Blazers had cut the Celtics' lead to eleven.  Rajon Rondo found Perk underneath, and the center could reasonably have tried to finish against an oncoming defender.  Instead, he stayed patient and funneled a pass around the Portland big to a cutting Kevin Garnett, who dunked it with no contest.  On the next play, Perk got his when Raj found him cutting open straight down the middle for a dunk of his own.

Kendrick Perkins by no means played a perfect game last night.  The offensive fouls were still a problem as always, and it wouldn't kill anyone for him to avoid turning the ball over.  But he played exactly the sort of style the Celtics need from their center every night: physical but smart.  Head in the game, hands on the ball off the glass, other bodies moved out of his lane.  Great work, Perk.

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Other musings from the Portland game:

  • I've got no desire to really get into the Infuriated Infant issue.  Jeff covered it both in his recap and a quick news update, and I'm not sure what else there is to say beyond the point that KG's post-game comments seemed to indicate this as more of an ongoing issue than an isolated problem from the huddle last night.  Regardless, I wasn't in the huddle, and I'm not there behind closed doors, so I don't know what has and what will be said.  Hopefully, Garnett and Baby get on the same wavelength and this team continues to roll along. That's all there is to it from this end of things.
  • Despite being in street clothes with an injury, Tony Allen's enthusiasm on the bench last night was awesome.  He was up off the bench and screaming encouragement at his 'mates all night.  It really is a lot of fun to observe how much of a college-like atmosphere this team seems to have sometimes.
  • One for the end-of-year highlight reels: Eddie House's lefty pass to Leon Powe for a dunk.  Just a beauty.
  • Another mark of how far Paul Pierce has come in his defensive attitude: When the starters came back on the court up 13 to ice the game in the fourth quarter, Pierce, who didn't have a great offensive night, immediately began sprinting around and face-guarding Blazers super-sub Rudy Fernandez.  This doesn't happen at any point prior to last season.  His progress as an all-around player and leader in the last year and change has been remarkable.
  • On a similar note, Eddie House ragging Rudy Fernandez all the way on the Blazers' final possession in a blowout - and finally forcing a turnover at the end of it - epitomizes this team's attitude.  Love it.  Love every second of it.  Let's remember to enjoy this era of Celtics basketball while it's here, folks.
  • Rough night all around for Fernandez, who shot just 2-for-7 from the field and committed three turnovers, including having a bucket waved off on a charge drawn by Leon Powe after Rudy had already released the shot.  While the Celtics defended him well later in the game, he had a couple of too-open looks from the outside in the first half and simply clanked them.
  • Brandon Roy went just 3-for-11 from the field, but his three buckets were beauties, including a baseline drive to on Ray Allen at game's outset on which he got to the rim and in one motion simply elevated over everyone in the vicinity for a two-hand finish.  Of course, I'll take three pretty buckets allowed any night in exchange for holding the other team's best player to less than 30 percent shooting.
  • Transition, transition, transition: Jeff Van Gundy screamed about it all night, and he couldn't have been more right.  The difference in the game during that epic 21-0 run that overlapped the second and third quarters was the Celtics' ability to get the ball up the floor in a hurry while the Blazers didn't sprint back defensively.  The Celtics outscored the Blazers 22-9 on the fast break, and it looked even worse than that.  Rajon Rondo was in heaven, and so were we as Celtics fans.