Kendrick Perkins established deep post position and cleanly caught an entry pass from Thabo Sefolosha on the left block. A quick pivot after his defender gambled by going for the steal left Perkins all alone at the rim and allowed him to finish the play with a strong two-handed dunk.
But later in the Thunder's 95-73 thumping of Utah on Sunday night, Perkins lost a defensive rebound despite having position and his paws on the ball first. It gave the Jazz a second scoring chance. Perkins then short-handed a reverse layup, wasting a pretty pass from Kevin Durant.
Yet just when it appeared Perkins was headed for one of those nights, he forced Jazz center Enes Kanter into fumbling a catch at the high post, leading to a Jazz turnover. And he later confidently converted a turnaround jump shot.
And so it goes for Perkins.
Sunday's erratic performance characterized the type of season the Thunder's starting center has had to begin the year.
Through his first 10 games, Perkins' scoring, rebounding and minute averages are the lowest they've been since he's joined the Thunder. His shooting percentage also is a career low.
But Perkins is trying to get past these difficult times and play through his struggles.
“I just continue to keep working. I feel like everything will fall into place when it does,” Perkins said. “Some things you can't control. Obviously, I would want to play a whole lot better than what I'm playing. Obviously, you would want more minutes also. But some things you just got to sit back and leave in God's hands. That's where I'm at right now with it.”
Further complicating things for Perkins has been the emergence of rookie center Steven Adams. The 12th overall pick has played more minutes than Perkins four times already.
“I think he's come in and played well for us at times,” Perkins said of Adams.
Still, that doesn't mean Perkins is ready to pass the torch. He still knows that he can compete at a high level and help the Thunder win.
“It ain't like I'm a 36, 37 year old man,” Perkins said. “I'm just 29 myself. So I'm just not really willing to take a backseat just yet.”
Perkins, however, understands that his production dictates his playing time. And he's currently trying to revert to the days where he was not only dominant defensively but also a threat to finish plays with regularity offensively.
“I don't know if you noticed, but I've been a little bit more aggressive these last couple of games on the offensive end,” Perkins said. “That's what I'm about to get back to.”
Limited opportunities can partly explain Perkins' offensive struggles. When he averaged a career-high 10.1 points in Boston during the 2009-10 season, he attempted 6.7 shots per game. This season, Perkins is down to 3.4 attempts per game, his lowest average since his second season.
“It's definitely a different transition,” Perkins said. “You could go some nights where you'll probably get one shot. And if you don't get it off the offensive rebound, it'd be some nights that you probably don't get no shots. And I'm cool with that, to sacrifice that. I don't really need any points to trigger myself into being a defensive anchor. I just got to go out there and do what I can do.”
Perkins said he analyzes his play on 10-game intervals. Thus, the Thunder's game against San Antonio on Wednesday will, in a sense, be a fresh start.
He'll try to make the most of it.
“Over these next 10 games, if I'm playing 20 minutes I'll try to go out there and at least average six (points) and six (rebounds),” Perkins said. “I think that's a fair number. Obviously get my blocks up and try to get me two assists a game.”