Kendrick Perkins played about as bad a game on offense Sunday as someone can play. He was 2-of-6 from the floor and committed five turnovers, more than all but one other player who took the floor. It goes without saying that’s it’s unacceptable for your fifth option on offense to commit five turnovers.
But then there’s this, via ESPN’s Stats and Information crew:
And as you can see, it didn’t work out, even when you factor in Howard’s pile of foul shots.
What you can’t see from this chart: Howard’s stats were even worse when Kendrick Perkins was in the game.
Here’s another nugget from the ESPN stats geniuses:
Kendrick Perkins won the battle of the centers on Sunday as he held Dwight Howard to just two points on 1-7 shooting. Although Howard played 13 more minutes than Perkins, Howard went just 2-3 with four points when Perkins was out of the game.
That’s right: Howard was 1-of-7 when Perk was in the game. The focus will be on the fact that Perk is strong enough to play Howard without help. Howard can’t back Perk down under the rim or move Perk wherever he wants. We knew that already, but it was refreshing to see Perk pull it off again despite his sore knee.
Something else Perk did Sunday was just as important: He did not go for any of Howard’s pump fakes. This is crucial. If Perk bites on the fakes by jumping or even going totally vertical, he loses his leverage and his balance. Howard can maneuver around him for a basket or jump into him to draw a foul and still get a decent look. The only time Shaq made any headway against Perkins in the conference semis was when he fooled Perk with a pump fake.
Perk played disciplined defense on Sunday. Of his five fouls, only two came defending Howard.
Also note that Howard only went 2-of-3 during the 13 minutes he played with Perk on the bench. The low number of attempts shows that Sheed and Davis held things together—by a thread, but still—during those 13 minutes Perk sat.
But don’t be fooled into thinking they are as effective as Perkins is against Howard. Big Baby and Sheed committed four fouls on Howard post-ups in those 13 minutes compared to the two fouls Perk committed against Howard in 26 minutes. In short: Sheed and Baby have to hack more to stop Howard. They also have to rely on some gimmicks; we saw Sheed pull out the chair, for instance, forcing Howard into a traveling violation. (That’s the sequence that led to a technical foul, and I’d point out that Howard led the league in technicals this season, but Stan Van Gundy might accuse me of being part of the vast media conspiracy to be mean to poor Dwightie).
The Celtics probably need Perk to play more than 26 minutes per game in this series. He must cut the silly fouls (his no-chance over-the-backs drive me nuts) and the illegal screens, though in fairness to Perk, I’m not sure anyone actually knows what an illegal screen is anymore.
Perk was so good that Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post is recommending a strategy change for Game 2:
I do think we have to call the Magic’s strategy into question here. Over the last 3 seasons, the Celtics have very well established that they can shut Howard down one-on-one; posting him up isn’t a sound idea, yet Orlando kept pounding the ball inside to him. Going forward, the Magic have to get Howard involved as a pick-and-roll finisher, and he can help himself by creating opportunities on the offensive glass. Expecting him to score consistently and efficiently against Boston’s bigs isn’t realistic. It simply baffled me to watch the Magic consistently clear out for Howard.
The Celtics will be ready for this. When the Magic ran screen/rolls involving Howard, the C’s generally defended them well.
They’ll have to continue defending them well in Game 2.
Update: The great Kevin Arnovitz and David Thorpe break down D-12′s struggles: