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Perk Block Party, Everyone's Invited

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After the final buzzer sounded at the New Garden last night, Kendrick Perkins stood next to Greg Dickerson and told the sideline reporter that he knows he needs to be the captain of the defense while Kevin Garnett is out.

Perhaps never was that more evident than it was in the Celtics' 104-92 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.

Perk did just about everything right in terrorizing the Hawks in the paint all night.  Anytime a navy jersey took the ball into the lane during his 36 minutes, it seemed Perk was waiting.  From an individual defensive standpoint, he had few problems with Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia, his two main charges.  Those two combined to shoot 7-for-21 from the field, and neither got too many easy looks against Perk (save for Horford's flying-through-the-lane dunk late in the game when both Perk and Mikki Moore were in foul trouble with the Celtics up big). 

But the real beauty of Perk's play came in his work as the anchor for his four teammates.  So many times, when a Hawk looked to get a step on his man to get to the basket, Perk slid over to ensure that there would be no basket allowed from the low blocks.  Twice, Josh Smith tried to use his explosive lefty drive to get to the bucket but was soundly rejected by the man in the middle.  Flip Murray met the same fate on another drive.

As we've been seeing with increasing frequency lately, Perk combined his brute strength and hallmark physical play with precise timing and an even-higher-than-usual energy level.  This resulted in an impact at the defensive end that went well beyond significant.  In addition to tying a career high with seven blocks, Perk batted the ball to a teammate on one of those plays, swatted the rock off Josh Smith and out of bounds on another, and chased down the board himself on two more occasions.  One of those rebounds came on a play when he rejected Zaza Pachulia twice in a span of five seconds.

These were not hollow blocked shots figures.  Beyond the fact that the Celtics took possession on four of his seven swats, Perk was able to make a difference even on the plays that didn't show up in the box score.  He altered any number of shots just by getting his hands up, and there's no telling how many takes to the rim never happened or ended up with Hawks pulling up for shots further from the basket because of his presence.  For the night, Atlanta's starting frontcourt shot 11-for-35 from the field, and the team as a whole hit just 35.6 percent of its field-goal attempts.  Much of that was due in no small part to Perkins looming around the rim throughout the evening.

That the center did a fine job at the offensive end amounted to mere gravy on this night.  He rolled off a screen nicely to finish an open dunk, made a couple of baby hooks inside and even knocked down an open 12-footer, all with minimal dribbling.  Twelve points on 5-for-7 shooting constitutes a solid contribution for the man in the middle.

But as The Guru - renowned as he is for showing Perk tough love at best on most occasions - noted afterward, "Perk did a good job at the offensive end.  He was tremendous on defense."

The rest of the ramblings from the final regular season meeting with a pesky Hawks team:

  • Whether or not it merits rivalry status (and I agree with Rondo that it doesn't), I love these games against Atlanta.  The Hawks sure do get up for the Celtics, and the energy in both buildings was great for each of the four meetings this season.
  • In a rather short time, Zaza Pachulia has morphed into one of those guys that I just don't like without any real concrete reason.  Everything about him seems to annoy me.  My enjoyment level of the aforementioned double-stuff play from Perk doubled thanks to the fact that Pachulia was the victim.
  • Nice return for Tony Allen.  He looked a bit awkward in his first stint on the floor and missed a bad-looking jumper, but he picked it up in the second half.  He managed to hit an acrobatic lay-up off a baseline drive and dish out a nice assist to a cutting Bill Walker.  But best of all was his help-side block of Al Horford as the Hawks' power forward started to bring the ball up to shoot from the left block late in the game.
  • More buckets for Eddie House, including at least one in brother-in-law Mike Bibby's face.  He is so much fun.
  • Speaking of Bibby, nice to see the New Garden crowd still booing him on every touch.
  • Highlight of the first half: Wyc Grousbeck joining Mike and Tommy at the mic for the second quarter.  Several good exchanges revealed once more that Wyc is a nice combination of insightful, energetic, involved and quite funny.  None topped his comment to Bibby after two missed shots: "There is no way you're a blood relative of Eddie House."  Between his excitement for the game, the fact that he isn't basketball illiterate and his commitment to the team and willingness to pay for his three Hall of Famers (no matter what one thinks of the way he spent or didn't spend his money this past summer), I'm thrilled to be rooting for a team owned by this guy.
  • Minus-7 in turnovers, minus-6 in offensive rebounds.  Atlanta takes 12 more shots from the field and 10 more from the foul line.  These games would be far easier if the Celtics could stop needing to overcome those two factors so regularly.  Moving on.
  • Good work by Mikki Moore at the offensive end.  A lot of cutting and off-the-ball motion paid off, as he wound up finishing a couple of dunks and lay-ups as well as an and-one inside.
  • After getting off to a hot start with two strong takes to the basket, Paul Pierce somehow had a quiet night on which he did a little bit of everything well and just about nothing badly (save for picking up a technical after a play on which he clearly fouled his man): 21 points (50 percent from the field, no missed free throws) six rebounds, five assists, no turnovers.  
  • Box score oddity: Ray Allen shot just 4-for-12 and finished with 10 points, but he led all players with a plus-30 mark.
  • Rajon Rondo played excellent basketball.  He knocked down three jump shots on as many attempts and wreaked havoc defensively, especially on two steals that led to his own fast-break buckets.  He topped off a 20-point, six-assist night by drawing a three-shot foul with time running out in the third quarter and then hitting all three freebies.  Also, it doesn't show up in the box score, but Rondo deserves plenty of credit for his hockey assist on Ray Allen's three early in the third quarter.  He swung the ball from the left wing to Paul Pierce at the right wing, who immediately relayed it to Ray in the right corner for the quick-release three.  Crisp ball movement all around.  Very strong night for Raj between hitting jumpers, finishing well around the rim, hitting his foul shots, facilitating his teammates and causing trouble on D.
  • When last we saw the Tommy Heinsohn Shooting Metric System, its creator proclaimed Mikki Moore an 80 percent shooter from midrange and "as good as anyone in the league."  Last night, he referred to Josh Smith's away-from-the-basket shooting as "potent."  Entering last night, Smith had hit 99 of his 309 attempts from outside the restricted area this season.  That's a cool 32 percent, emphasis on "cool."
  • Not such bright end-of-quarter play from the Hawks: With three seconds left in the first half, Mo Evans gave Paul Pierce two shots with a non-shooting foul 30 feet from the basket.  With two seconds left in the third quarter, Flip Murray fouled Rondo on a three-point heave, and Raj banged all three shots  Just not wise at all.
  • Add Mike Woodson to the list of people who just don't get it.  See here for details.  Long story short, KG is "just a double-double guy."  Right.  In the words of Mark Jackson, c'mon Mike Woodson, you're better than that.  I hope.
  • Another excellent offensive performance for the Infuriated Infant.  Continues to progress with each passing day.  Witnessing his arc of improvement is a blast.
  • Another late-game basket for Bill Walker once the game was in hand.  The game-capping ritual continues.

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