Got a call Tuesday afternoon from a Guthrie nursing home. A nice lady said she and her fellow residents just wanted my opinion.
Why is Kendrick Perkins on the Thunder?
I tried to explain it best I could. She seemed reasonably satisfied with my answer.
Then Tuesday night, Perk showed her why. And Thabo Sefolosha did the same, just in case she was wondering about him, too.
The Thunder beat Portland 105-97 in a showdown for the Northwest Division lead, and yes, the Thunder won because Kevin Durant scored 46 points and again went wild down the stretch.
But the Thunder also won because it turned up the defensive heat.
Perkins and Thabo, four-season defensive anchors for the Thunder, seemingly always have to justify their existence in the starting lineup or even on the roster.
Thabo's shooting has slumped this season. Perkins' offense is a nightmare.
But their defensive value trumps their offensive shortcomings. Defense still wins. Defense and Durant is how the Thunder has to survive without Russell Westbrook. It's not a bad plan even with Westbrook.
And the Thunder is an elite defensive team in large part because Perkins and Sefolosha defend the basket with abandon.
Portland was in position to win this game. But the Blazers went six minutes without a field goal and 3 1/2 minutes without a point, droughts ended only by Damian Lilliard's meaningless layup with 20 seconds left.
Meanwhile, Durant scored 11 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes to lead a 15-0 run.
Perkins guarded Blazer phenom LaMarcus Aldridge down the stretch — Aldridge had 29 points but missed his final seven shots, all after Perkins returned to the court with 6:17 left in the game.
Earlier, Perk, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison took turns on Aldridge, who was swishing those rainbow jumpers that seem unstoppable no matter the quality of the defense.
But Perkins' physicality clearly bothered Aldridge more than did Ibaka's athletic ability or Collison's technique. Perk is known for his post defense, but he showed he's capable on the perimeter with a sharpshooting big man.
“Perk was really good tonight,” Scotty Brooks said. “Defensively, he's guarding one of the best shotmakers in the game ... did a good job of staying with him.
“The first half, (Aldridge) was making shots you didn't think he was ever going to miss.”
Aldridge was 7-of-18 shooting with Gran Torino in the game, 5-of-8 shooting with Perk on the bench.
Meanwhile, after halftime, Brooks switched Sefolosha over to Lilliard, the mighty mite point guard who makes the Portland offense go.
Lillard first half: 10 points, 5-of-10 shooting, two assists.
Lilliard second half: four points, 1-of-5 shooting, two assists.
“Felt pretty good switching and guarding him,” Thabo said. “It worked for us.
“It's not a struggle. Honestly, I feel like I'm the best defender in the league” on the perimeter.
The NBA's defensive stats back up Thabo, who is at or near the top in the league's defensive statistics.
The Blazers made 21 of their first 35 shots and still were shooting 53 percent when they led by nine late in the third quarter.
But Portland missed 17 of its final 24 shots, and the Thunder D was spectacular down the stretch.
After the Thunder fell behind 95-90, its defense delivered on five straight possessions:
* Perkins played Aldridge tough, prompting a missed 14-footer.
* Sefolosha smothered Lilliard, disrupting a Portland possession, and Aldridge threw the ball out of bounds.
* Serge Ibaka blocked two shots and Perkins one in a four-second span, and Aldridge finally missed a 17-footer.
* Aldridge missed two contested jumpers.
* Perkins swiped a lob pass.
The Blazers were done, and one final Durant 3-pointer put the capper on the 15-0 run.
“We held the best-scoring basketball team 13 points below their average when they were making a lot of shots in the first half,” Brooks said.
“We were just going to keep chipping away and hopefully, we would start making some shots, and I think we did.”
The highlight tapes will be full of Durant's wondrous shots. That's as it should be.
But Durant had some help, and it came on the other end of the court.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.