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OKC Thunder: Scott Brooks has to sit Kendrick Perkins against Miami

COMMENTARY — While the Thunder's center might start, he probably won't see much action against the Heat on Thursday night. That strategy worked for OKC in a win over the defending champs earlier this season.
by Berry Tramel Published: February 18, 2014

photo - Kendrick Perkins played a season-low five minutes at Miami on Wednesday.  Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman Archives
Kendrick Perkins played a season-low five minutes at Miami on Wednesday. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman Archives

The Heat is coming to town for a Thursday night showdown, and you know what means. Matchups extraordinaire.

Durant vs. LeBron. Westbrook (light a candle) vs. D-Wade. Serge Ibaka vs. Chris Bosh. Kendrick Perkins against no one.

That's the fundamental problem with Perk and Miami. It's 100 percent uncomplicated. The Heat has no one for Perkins to guard.

Which is why Scotty Brooks knows what he has to do. He has to sit Perkins against Miami. Start Perk if need be, for ceremonial sake, but get him out quickly, never to return, at least until the Heat decides to play a more traditional lineup.

It's the last thing Brooks wants to do. Perk is a prideful player and the Thunder is an unwavering organization. The Thunder stands by its cornerstones, and in case you haven't been paying attention, Perkins is a cornerstone.

His contract ($35 million, four years, up in summer 2015) says so.

His influence says so. The Thunder became an elite NBA team the day Perkins' scowl arrived from Boston. Overnight, the Thunder developed an attitude. Overnight, the Baby Boomers got meaner. Overnight, the Thunder started playing defense.

His play says so. Perk still brings it on defense. The Thunder has played more than half the season without Westbrook, which means Reggie Jackson has been chasing around point guards, usually from behind, and yet the Thunder still ranks third in NBA defensive efficiency, at 99.3 points per 100 possessions.

That's not all Gran Torino's doing. Thabo Sefolosha remains a perimeter stopper, and Ibaka remains the league's best shot blocker, but Perkins still can man up on the game's best low-post scorers and still can guard the pick-and-roll with the best of them. That's how games are won.

Just not against Miami. The Heat has disdained a traditional lineup for three years now. Miami often plays without a center or anyone close to the post.

So to play Perkins against Miami, Brooks has to assign him to Bosh, and Ibaka to Shane Battier or somebody else trolling the 3-point line. Putting Ibaka 23 feet from the basket is like playing Ozzie Smith in left field. And it's not like Perk is around the basket, either, since Bosh likes to float all over.

The Thunder's defense is compromised, Perkins' value is diminished and 99 percent of his worth comes from defense.

Which is why Foreman Scotty finally benched Perkins. He didn't want to do it, but he knew he had to do it sometime. Jan. 29 down in Miami finally was the time.

Brooks replaced Perkins 4½ minutes into the game against the Heat, and the Thunder blossomed like Muskogee azaleas.

A 15-2 deficit was wiped out by mid-second quarter, and when Perkins didn't start the second half, the rout was on. The Thunder lead eventually reached 25, before OKC settled for a 112-95 victory that ended a six-game series losing streak.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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