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Jenni Carlson: Perk takes back ownership of the paint

by Jenni Carlson Published: April 20, 2011

It made all the difference in the world. Only three nights after outscoring the Thunder by double figures on points in the paint, the Nuggets were outscored 30-28.

What's more, even though they had 30 shots in the paint, they hit only 14 of them.

That's a sign of some pretty stout interior defense.

That's something that starts with Perkins.

Sure, Collison and Serge Ibaka and Nazr Mohammed deserve credit, too, but Perkins is the ring leader. He's so defensive minded that unsolicited the other day, he started talking about how well James Harden played in Game 1. He raved about the defense that Harden played on J.R. Smith.

And here the rest of us thought Harden stunk up the joint by missing four of five shots and scoring only five points.

Perkins thinks defense first, second and third, and Wednesday, he played that way.

Nene went from looking like an All-Star to playing like just another center in the NBA. He scored 16 points, but he hit only 2 of 8 shots.

“I think we forced them into some tough shots,” Thunder swingman Kevin Durant said. “They missed a few easy ones, but I think we did a good job of closing the paint, putting Nene on the free throw line opposed to giving him dunks like he had in Game 1.”

Collison said: “Make them earn it at the line. It's just one more thing that they have to do.”

It started with Perkins' foul.

He was disappointed in himself after Game 1. He missed some defensive assignments. He let some things slip.

“Game 1, we were not satisfied — we're still not satisfied — but Game 1 wasn't our best win,” Perkins said. “Today was a good win, but it wasn't a great one in our eyes.”

With that, he may have already set the tone for Game 3.

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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