With 10:14 left in the third quarter of Game 1 on Monday night, starting center Kendrick Perkins re-injured his right hip muscle strain while attempting an open two-handed dunk in the Thunder's 119-90 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers.
A hobbled Perkins left the game at the 10:04 mark and was taken to the locker room. With 4:13 left in the third period, Perkins returned to the bench, but did not return to the game.
“He was ready to play, but we didn't need him at that time,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said afterward. “He'll get some treatment and we'll see how he feels (Tuesday).”
After spending nine days officially listed as “day-to-day,” Perkins returns to that same status heading into Game 2 on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at The Peake.
It wasn't publicly known until 90 minutes before tipoff that Perkins would start against the Lakers, but the news came as no surprise to LA coach Mike Brown.
“We figured he was starting,” Brown said. “He's a tough guy … and he had 15 (actually nine) days of rest.”
Whether Perkins’ presence was assumed or presumed by either team, his availability is vital to the Thunder.
Brooks repeatedly has stated Perkins is one of the league's premier one-on-one, low-post defenders.
Brown threw in his two cents when asked the difference in OKC's attitude and physicality without Perkins.
“They're still a very talented team without him, but I think he brings both those things to them when you talk about attitude and physicality,” Brown said. “Those two things are huge for that team.”
Brown is a longtime acquaintance of Thunder general manager Sam Presti. They worked together with the San Antonio Spurs from 2000-03.
It was Presti who traded Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green to the Boston Celtics for Perkins (and reserve guard Nate Robinson) on Feb. 24, 2011.
“Sam has done a marvelous job putting this team together, but from the outside looking in, that was the biggest move they've made,” Brown said of acquiring Perkins. “There are some really good bigs in the West, and without Perk they'd still be very good, but it could be tough for them with as physical as it gets in the playoffs, not having that guy in the middle to do combat or go against other bigs.”
The Lakers have 7-foot towers in their starting lineup with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. For many teams, their only hope to beat the Lakers is to double-team Gasol and Bynum, but not the Thunder — especially with Perkins on the court.
“When Perk's on the floor, they haven't doubled any of our bigs all season, and that's our strength,” Brown said. “We like people to double-team us. That's how we beat (Denver) in Game 7. They kept double-teaming and we finally hit some shots. They (the Thunder) don't have to do that.
“They're able to play anybody in this league straight-up, and a lot of it is due to Perk.”