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Some Down, Most Up For KP43

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On the night two new Celtics made their home debuts at the TD Banknorth Garden, the green's incumbent man in the middle made sure he wasn't forgotten.

Kendrick Perkins was far from flawless, but he did a fine job for the most part in the Celtics' 104-99 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

In addition to leading the Celtics on the glass and the defensive interior, the center made a key set of back-to-back plays late in the third quarter.  With the Celtics just starting to secure the momentum in a game that remained close for too long, Perk took one of Rajon Rondo's many beautiful feeds on the night and dunked emphatically to give the Celtics' a three-point lead with less than four minutes to play in the quarter.

Hardly 20 seconds later, defensive rotations left Perk in an unfavorable situation: attempting to guard Indiana's Jarrett Jack on the perimeter.  But not only did he do his best Kevin Garnett theatrical impression - getting low, doing a lot of screaming and attacking Jack near the three-point arc - he also managed to make the play his team needed.  After Jack predictably blew by the slow-footed big man, Perk turned, recovered and blocked the guard's lay-up attempt from behind.  Ray Allen grabbed the board and hit Rondo with an outlet.  Rondo in turn dished to Leon Powe for a wide open lay-in on the right block.

Just like that, in a span of less than half a minute, Perk's work generated a six-point swing in the Celtics' favor.  He scored two of his own, kept what should have been a sure two for the Pacers off the board and made the block that started the break for two more Celtics points.  The crowd rose to its feet in appreciation, and Jim O'Brien called for time.

The block was one of five for Perk on the night, two of which were recovered by the Celtics.  The beast in the middle picked his spots and timed his leaps well, and it led to a rough night for Indiana's frontcourt.  Perk swatted Marquis Daniels twice early on, and the Pacers' small forward never looked comfortable going to the paint after that.  Daniels finished 3-for-12 for the night, and the three frontcourt starters for Indiana totaled 10-for-28 shooting for the evening.  That is at least in part a testament to the job Perkins did blocking, altering and discouraging shots inside.  His 11 rebounds led the team as well.

Without a doubt, Perk made his errors for the evening.  Naked eye observation seems to indicate him particularly susceptible to foul trouble as of late.  It was more of the same in that regard last night, with Perk picking up two fouls in the game's first three minutes and heading into halftime with three. 

Offensively, I maintain that the less dribbling and jump-shooting he does, the better.  He managed to hit one jump shot but missed another badly, and this team doesn't need him getting too trigger-happy.  He also got himself into trouble on the dribble again, pounding the ball into multiple defenders leading to a blindside steal.  My personal favorite Perk anti-highlight of the night came late in the third quarter, shortly after his block on Jack: He caught the ball just outside the foul line, gave me a heart attack by faking another jumper, pulled the ball down, put it through his legs and attempted a spin move into the paint, bulldozing 17 defenders and killing three innocent bystanders in the process.*  After the officials hit him with the offensive foul, he turned around with a good old "Who, me?" expression.  If our boys hadn't still been involved in a one-possession game with the Pacers late in the third quarter, I would have found this even more amusing.

(*Update, hyperbole warning: For the literalists among us, it appears Perk bulldozed only one defender in reality.  No casualties.)

Perk helped make us a bit nervous at night's end as well by having a rough go of it in the final minutes: A backcourt turnover that led to an Indiana basket and a foul that sent T.J. Ford to the line with 35 seconds to play were both actions the Celts could have done without. 

But in spite of the roughness at the end, the green survived, and Kendrick Perkins' play for most of the night was a big reason why.

Other thoughts from a game that will heretofore be known for the Celtics' ability to scratch out a win despite playing without the suspended Gabe Pruitt:

  • Mark me down for pleasantly surprised as far as Stephon Marbury's play in his green debut was concerned.  Jeff did an thorough job last night of covering the key points of note, so I'll keep it brief here: The defense wasn't anything to brag about, particularly in the first half, but it appeared to be more a function of rust and not having his legs under him than the lack of effort for which he was reputed in the past.  As long as he makes an effort to learn the system and keep his man in front of him, the legs will come back with time.  Offensively, he provided a spark, particularly with his six points in the 9-0 fourth quarter run that stretched the lead to 13.  Marbury hit a couple of jumpers, and his driving lefty lay-in forced an Indiana timeout and drove the crowd wild.  There is a lot of basketball to be played, and I would rather not get too high or low over 13 minutes against a sub-.500 team.  But for the guy's first meaningful game action in more than a year, it seems hard to consider his debut anything short of encouraging.
  • Add a tally to the hands-of-stone count for Mikki Moore: Standing wide open on the left corner, he had a pass hit him in the mitts and fall out of bounds.  Nice three-point play in the second half though.
  • It feels harsh to use the term "mixed review" on a night when the starting point guard goes for 17 assists and just one turnover, but I can't help it.  It isn't the 1-for-7 shooting night that bothers me so much as his repeated hesitation to shoot the ball more.  It's hard to remember the last time he looked so unwilling to put the ball up.  The Pacers were giving him looks from mid-range all night - looks that he has been hitting with more regularity lately - and Rondo continued to hesitate and appear as though he wanted no part of shooting the rock.  This is the time for him to get his game-action shooting reps in, and in the long run, he needs to be able to force opponents to come out and play him from the wings and elbows.  All that being said, I can only harp on that issue much after that sort of overall performance:  Aside from the excessive timidity on those short jumpers, Rondo did a fantastic job as playmaker and ran an effective offense.
  • The Pacers took 13 more shots from the field (and only five fewer foul shots), largely thanks to their plus-10 mark in offensive rebounding.  Not good.
  • Paul Pierce still doesn't look quite himself out there, but he still gave the team a relatively efficient effort, putting up 16 points on a 6-for-13 shooting effort that included two threes.
  • Another impressive night for Large Baby.  The Pacers committed to giving the Celtics' big-time scorers extra attention (not that it bothered Ray Allen much), and Glen Davis took what the defense gave him in terms of open looks from mid-range.  While he missed a few times early, he stayed confident and continued to shoot the ball without hesitation.  When all was said and done, he had buried a few jumpers and finished with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field.  That included the Celtics' final six points, courtesy of a difficult lay-in plus the foul, a runner in the lane with the shot clock expiring and one more foul shot in the final moments.  A bit more than two rebounds in 25 minutes for the guy starting at power forward would be nice, but the Infant put together a good night overall.
  • Ray Allen sure can shoot.  More coming on his wonderful second season in green over the next few days.

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