Game 7 of 82, Wednesday, November 12, 430 PST
Thunder @ Celtics
Sriracha mayo. It’s delicious. Spicy and creamy. Boil some chicken. Toss in some garlic and onion powder. A pinch of dill. Lemon juice. You’ve made yourself a spicy chicken salad. The Celtics offense is Sriracha mayo. It’s flexible. It works in many situations. It comes out easy and helps build big leads. Hmm. Builds big leads and sandwiches?
Sadly, those leads often appear as figments of the imagination. They evaporate all too easily. The baskets come without effort. Swish after swish. With three minutes left in the first quarter, the starters begin to take their rests and before you know it, the lead dissolves. You’re left with the sound of the mayo bottle when it’s nearing its end (plastic fart).
Fans start asking themselves if they missed something. Weren’t they up 15 after eight minutes? Go to the bathroom or forget to pause the game when grabbing something from the kitchen and you may miss a 10-point swing. The offense is Sriracha mayo. The defense is old milk. Milk that you don’t even want to pour down the drain, for fear of the aroma coming up from the pipes.
Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow are back in the lineup for Oklahoma City after early season absences. No Kevin Durant. No Russell Westbrook. Not a problem when point guard (and former Boston College star) Reggie Jackson is making people forget about the 1970’s outfielder who played for the Yankees and Athletics. Jackson splashed through that old milk for 28 easy points on 15 shot attempts. Reggie added 8 assists and lost the ball only once. He was the best player on the floor not named Rajon. Then there’s sweet-shooting Anthony Morrow, who may very well win a playoff game for these Thunder if they can squeeze into the bottom of the West’s playoff bracket in April. Like Memphis last year, the Thunder will be a ridiculously dangerous 7th or 8th seed if they can string together enough wins in the first 30 games. Morrow poured in 28 on 16 attempts.
Where was the perimeter defense? Brad Stevens missed rookie Marcus Smart last night. The new hand-check rules are a problem for Avery Bradley. Hopefully the referees stop over-emphasizing that “point of emphasis” soon.
Rondo for Naught
‘Tis a damn shame the Celtics keep wasting these scintillating performances from Rondo. Against OKC, Rondo once again contributed artistry, wisdom, genius and several sets of fireworks. He even connected on 4 of 7 from distance.
Rondo’s line: 20 pts, 12 ast, 9 reb, 2 stl, and only 2 turnovers.
Boston beat OKC by one point over the course of Rondo’s 36 minutes played. Unfortunately, Rondo cannot play all 48 minutes. These kinds of games should make any doubtful Celtics fans question their doubts. What we have in Rondo is what we will not find in any other point guard. A pass-first dynamo who is as good at rebounding as he is on the pick-and-roll. Stop listening to those who don’t appreciate Rondo. He’ll be worth every cent of whatever he gets next summer. He’s pure entertainment as well as substance. Any writer who claims he’s a “head case,” is mentally deficient. What he may be, at times, is ornery. Like most intelligent and highly-skilled athletes, he may not always listen well (remember Larry Bird?). However, he seems to be developing some solid chemistry with Stevens.
In Defense of Perk
Kendrick Perkins is an easy target for forgetful fans. From 2007-2012, Perk was an essential component of several championship-contending teams. First with the Celtics and then with OKC, Perkins thwarted the best big men in the game. Dwight Howard and Orlando. Bynum in the 2010 Finals with the Lakers. Tim Duncan and the Spurs in the 2011 West Finals. Zach Randolph and his elbows in Memphis. Of course, Perkins’ game has not aged well.
Never the most graceful athlete, Kendrick’s sheer strength and girth combined with intelligent positioning and extended arms have allowed him to frustrate opposing centers in the paint for over a decade. Everything Perkins does well is hard to quantify. Absorbing contact with his tree trunk legs and broad, bruising shoulders. Deflecting shots and blocking passing lanes with his extendo-arms. Interior positioning. That mean streak, highlighted by his infamous scowl. By contrast, consider Kelly Olynyk’s presence in the paint. Olynyk (minus 13 in this one) has been great on the offensive side this year, showcasing improved range and creative passing…but he gives so much back on the defensive end. To be fair, he’s playing out of position when paired with Sullinger. Olynyk is not a center, and never will be. He’s a power forward who needs a Kendrick Perkins by his side.
Everything Perkins doesn’t do well is easy to quantify. He never had anything resembling a mid-range shot. He takes hours to prepare himself before releasing a 10-footer. He has trouble catching the ball to begin with. In his early days with the Celtics, he insisted on bringing the ball down before going up to dunk, which resulted in all kinds of badness. He doesn’t pass well. Since the knee problems became chronic, he can barely move up and down the court.
NBA Twitter loves to abuse Perkins for all of the above reasons. He’s the easy target. His lumbering gait is magnified by the aesthetically-pleasing athletes that surround him in OKC. Watching him run next to Ibaka, Durant, Jackson and the high-speed train that is Russell Westbrook, Perkins looks like he’s drowning in mud.
Let’s give Perk some praise for all of his work during those playoff years from 2007-2010. He may not be easy to watch now, and he may not have always been easy to watch then, but he was absolutely necessary, scowl and all.