Thunder center Kendrick Perkins lost 31 pounds thanks to a strenuous off-season workout regimen. For this, his reward potentially could be the nightmare of attempting to defend Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki.
During Saturday morning's shoot-around in preparation for Game 1 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Perkins was asked how much better the slimmed-down version of himself would be able to handle Perkins.
"We'll see," Perkins said. "I'm just going to go out there and try to make it hard for him."
That moment came nearly 12 hours later during OKC's pulsating 99-98 victory over the Mavericks.
Perkins occasionally switched off on Nowitzki throughout the game, but the 7-foot, 245-pound German was Perkins' sole responsibility in the final 2:17 with the Thunder trailing 94-89.
In the ensuing possessions, Nowitzki missed a 3-pointer; committed back-to-back turnovers; and wound up drawing a foul that gave Dallas a 98-97 lead with 9.0 seconds left.
Nowitzki didn't touch the ball on the Mavs' final possession with 1.5 seconds left when Shawn Marion failed to get off a shot after Kevin Durant's 15-foot game-winner.
The difference-maker was the first turnover, which Perkins deflected from behind and wound up in the hands of James Harden, who fed Durant for a dunk to tie the score at 94.
A year ago, Nowitzki would have easily abused an ailing Perkins, who was recovering from injuries to both knees, but not this season.
En route to beating the Mavs three out of four times during the regular season, Perkins occasionally took turns defending Nowitzki, so Perkins defending Nowitzki in Game 1 came as no surprise to the Mavericks.