PORTLAND — After going 5-for-6 from the stripe Wednesday at Phoenix, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins might have stumbled upon the key to better free throw shooting.
“I probably just needed to get away from the crib for a minute and get on the road and try a new basket,” Perkins joked a the team’s shootaround Friday morning.
Perkins went 3-for-15 from the line during the Thunder’s six-game home stand. But Perkins was money when Suns coach Alvin Gentry began intentionally fouling him with just under five minutes remaining to make the career 60-percent foul shooter protect the Thunder’s 15-point lead.
Perkins made his first foul shot but missed his second. The first make, though, cleared a mental block and allowed Perkins to calmly make his last four attempts.
“I just needed to see one go in since I’ve been struggling,” Perkins said. “Once I seen one go in I kind of got a little rhythm.”
Perkins laughed at Gentry’s strategy and remembered that other coaches had used the strategy against him during his days in Boston. But Perkins said it’s up to him to make teams pay for putting him on the line.
“It happens, but I just got to keep working,” Perkins said. “Keep stepping up and trying to make the shot and really just go from there.”
When asked about the strategy, Thunder coach Scott Brooks essentially said bring it on.
“I like that strategy because it gives us two free throws. We don’t have to work for it,” Brooks said. “I believe guys are going to step up and make them…(Perkins) hasn’t shot the ball well from the line, but he has good form and he’s working on it.”
Guard Russell Westbrook did not participate in this morning’s shootaround. He was excused from the session to tend to a personal matter, a team spokesman said. The Thunder, however, is expecting Westbrook to play tonight.
WATCH OUT FOR WALLACE
The last time the Thunder and Blazers played, just five days ago back in Oklahoma City, Blazers forward Gerald Wallace posted a game-high 40 points on OKC. Wallace made 16 of 28 shots on an array of jumpers and drives to the basket. Thunder forward Serge Ibaka started out on Wallace in that game, and Brooks said Ibaka will be the first defender again tonight if the Blazers start a small unit once again.
Although it was a clear mismatch, Brooks said that in reviewing the film from the last game Wallace scored only seven to nine points on Ibaka.
“It was on everybody,” Brooks said of Wallace’s scoring barrage. “He was being very fair with it. He was spreading it around.”
Kevin Durant, Brooks said, also is likely to get a good dose of defending Wallace.
“I like Kevin playing him,” Brooks said. “I like Kevin playing some good offensive players. It’s good for him. It challenges him.”
BREAK OUT THE BROOM?
The Thunder enters tonight’s game 3-0 against the Blazers.
Perkins said that alone will make tonight’s contest a tall task.
“For one thing they’re at home,” Perkins said. “But another thing is with our season series being 3-0, a team takes pride in guys coming in trying to sweep them. So by no means do I think this is going to be an easy game or a blowout. We’re going to have to come out here and be prepared and ready to fight for 48 minutes. It’s not going to be easy. We’re on the road. It’s going to be a lot of downs in this game. It’s going to be a lot of ups, too. But we just got to stick together.”
KEY TO VICTORY
Brooks wants his team to match Portland’s physicality. If the Thunder does that, Brooks thinks his guys will give themselves a good chance to win.
“We did a good job of that the last game,” Brooks said. “They’re a physical team. They’re an every possession team. And this home crowd is a great advantage that they have. But we played them well all three times because we matched their physical toughness.”