The Celtics were in town Sunday, and it was fun. For a lot of reasons.
The classic green uniforms – though the white trim is much better than the gold the Celts wore Sunday. The history. The tradition. And the personality. The Celtics have personality.
Boston’s Doc Rivers might be the best NBA coach to talk to. He’s a great coach, no doubt, but he has fun, too. Jabbers with friends and foes alike, be it refs or players. “No retired players! No retired players!” he barked at Derek Fisher as the ancient one squatted to check into the game.
But Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are good talkers, too. Not necessarily funny. Not necessarily provocative. But they answer questions without apparent corporate spin.
Anyway, no surprise that the best Thunder talkers are Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Derek Fisher. Fish and Collison played many NBA seasons pre-Sam Presti; Perk was reared a Celtic.
After the Thunder’s 91-79 victory Sunday, I asked Perkins what was going on with his team-high five assists.
“You surprised?” Perkins said with a hint of a smile. “No. I ain’t going say that. Shouldn’t surprise you. You been watching me for awhile.”
Gran Torino is a polarizing player. His obvious lack of value against the Heat has made fans oblivious to his value against most NBA teams. Including the Spurs, the Grizzlies, the Clippers, the Lakers.
Perkins was tremendous against the Celtics, as I wrote for my Monday column, which you can read here. Kevin Garnett made just five of 19 shots.
“I was just trying to keep a body on him,” Perk said. “He had some good looks. I just wanted to contest all of ‘em.”
As I wrote, Garnett was reduced to taking a lot of long jumpers. What Kevin Durant called “tough twos,” which is winning defense. The worst shot in basketball is a long 2-pointer.
Garnett these days takes a lot of jumpers. But his jumpers Sunday were from 21 feet instead of 16 feet. Big difference. The difference between winning and losing.
“I told the guys coming into the game, it’s going to be one of those low-scoring games, one of those games that we have to grind out,” Perkins said. “That’s what we did. Every night, we can’t go out and expect to put up 100 points and the score be 120-100. Some nights it’s going to be like this.”
Said Rivers, “I hope Perk knows how he plays. He’s only been with him for a long time. But I thought, Ibaka, I thought they all did, they got into Kevin’s air space and made him take tough shots.
“Wasn’t great shots tonight. I want him to be aggressive, but we want to get him better shots than he had tonight. He did miss some open shots, and those were the elbow shots.”
More from Rivers: “We were bad all game offensively. We were forcing things and got the ball stuck at times. Their length bothered us at times.
“Sometimes you want to win too bad, and that was us today. Jeff (Green), who always moves the ball, the ball stuck with him. Stuck with Paul, even Kevin, which it never happens, was getting the ball stuck with him.
“That is what good teams do sometimes. You want to beat them and you step out of what you have been doing to win games. We missed some open shots and we got stuck a lot on one side of the floor. We saw matchups that we had advantages on, and give them credit for fighting.
“At some point you have to get the ball to the other side, and we just refused to do that.”