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OKC Thunder: Win over Lakers shows Kendrick Perkins trade worked out

The blockbuster trade that brought Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City was designed to help the Thunder beat the Lakers. It looks like it's working.
by Berry Tramel Published: February 24, 2012

On the first Laker possession, 7-foot-something, 285-pound all-star Andrew Bynum bulled toward the basket and launched a shot.

Kendrick Perkins blocked it.

On the Lakers' second possession, Kobe Bryant drove the lane and tried to lay the ball in the basket. Perk blocked it again.

On the Lakers' third possession, Bynum backed in, then whirled for a turnaround jumper. Perkins stayed right on him, body to body. The ball bounced off.

Exactly one year ago, Thunder mastermind Sam Presti pulled off a blockbuster trade with one primary design.

Beat the Lakers.

Thursday night, the Thunder did just that, 100-85 in a game that launches your heroes into the All-Star break with an NBA-best record of 27-7.

The Feb. 24, 2011, trade that brought Perkins from Boston and lifted Serge Ibaka into the lineup transformed the Thunder from a team that talked about sabertooth defense to a team that played sabertooth defense.

A team that could counter the Los Angeles gargantuans with girth, guile and basket protection, if not actual height.

Laker big men Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 36 points but made just 14 of 29 shots combined. Gasol scored 22 points, but he was heroic in doing so. Made a ton of tough shots.

Remember the first three minutes of Game 1 of that playoff series two years ago, when Gasol and Bynum seemed to drop shot after shot from point-blank range?

The baskets don't come so easy now. Against the nasty Perkins and the fly-swatting Ibaka, Gasol and Bynum don't get tap-ins anymore. On the rare occasions they shot from the spots they like, they were sandwiched. All the liberty of being in a briar patch.

“It was a physical game,” said Thunder coach Scotty Brooks. “It was a game of physical and mental toughness.

“Perk and Serge did a terrific job of making their bigs earn every spot on the floor. When they got it, they were forcing them to make tough shots. They deserve a lot of credit for this win.”

When Bynum and Gasol struggle to score, that heats the pressure on Kobe Bryant, who scored 24 points but needed 24 shots, making just seven.

“When they're going into their bigs, he (Kobe) gets a chance to rest,” said Perk's backup, Nazr Mohammed, who also arrived via trade on Feb. 24, 2011. “They carry him at times. We just wanted to make sure they couldn't carry him so much.”

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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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