No telling how many times Thunder coach Scott Brooks has come to the defense of Kendrick Perkins' offense, or lack thereof.
Brooks constantly preaches OKC traded for Perkins two years ago this month because of his defensive presence, not his offensive prowess.
The Beast from Beaumont “will not fill up a stat sheet,” Brooks repeatedly has said.
All that changed Friday night in the Thunder's 127-96 annihilation of the Phoenix Suns in which Perkins exploded for 17 points and shot 8 for 9 from the field.
It was his highest point total in 132 career games with the Thunder. Perkins also had nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals, all in 27 minutes.
“He's great,” point guard Russell Westbrook said of Perkins, a 10-year veteran with a career scoring average of 6.1 and a 4.4 average this season. “He's a great guy and he has confidence. That's what we need is for everybody to be confident.”
Perkins was in the center of a balanced scoring attack in which all 13 Thunder players scored. Five OKC players finished with at least 16 points. The last time that happened was Nov. 20, 2009, against the Washington Wizards.
“I'm just going to keep working,” Perkins said. “Guys are doubling Kevin (Durant) and Russ now, so I'm just trying to find the open spot. I've been watching a lot of film and going to the gym and working on my game. I'm just trying to find an open spot when they get doubled.”
As you might expect, Perkins said it was defense that turned Friday night's game into a blowout.
OKC led 55-50 at halftime and erupted for a 21-0 run midway through the third quarter that allowed Perkins, Westbrook and Durant to sit out the entire fourth quarter for the third straight game this week.
“I think it's the first game in a while that Scott got on us at halftime about our effort,” Perkins said. “It was our first time watching film in a long time, and he got on us about our effort in the defensive end. He told us it's not a pick-up game, and we have to go out there and defend. That's what we went out there and did.”
Brooks spoke at length about Perkins afterward and is maintaining the same expectations since his arrival in OKC.
“He had just a great shooting night,” Brooks said. “I've said many times before, we don't judge Perk on his points. We judge Perk on his activity and his leadership and his ability to anchor the defense. He made a couple of jump shots, he made a runner, but he's been making that the last couple three or four weeks. It was a balanced scoring attack. Everybody participated.
“Perk works every day, guys. He anchors our defense and he takes pride in it. There's no question that everybody feels good that they get opportunities to score, but he doesn't go home thinking he had a bad game if he only scored four or five points. We don't allow him to think that way. He's one of our emotional leaders.”