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Oklahoma City Thunder: Kendrick Perkins' presence on the court might have helped prevent fourth-quarter collapse

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 12, 2014

There were lots of shocking numbers to come out of the Thunder’s fourth-quarter collapse on Sunday afternoon.

The Thunder blew a 16-point lead in the last nine minutes of the game. The Clippers scored on 18 of 19 possessions down the stretch.

And the fire was fueled by easy basket after easy basket, including two dunks and six uncontested layups.

But here’s a number as appalling as any: 00:00.

That’s the number of minutes played in the fourth quarter by Kendrick Perkins.

No Thunder player has filled his role any better than Perk in these playoffs. He is a defensive doberman, a rim protector, and he has done those two jobs as well as anyone could ask.

He handcuffed Zach Randolph in the first round, neutralized DeAndre Jordan in this round, all the while providing a last line of defense at the basket.

Perk has drawn praise from friend and foe alike, no one more than his coach. But Scott Brooks chose to leave Perk on the bench as the Clippers turned crunch time of Sunday’s game into a layup drill.

After practice Monday, I asked Brooks about Perk.

Did Brooks give any thought to putting Perk back in the game as the Clippers got one contested layup after another?

“That’s the good thing about our team,” Brooks said. “We can throw many guys out there. Everybody has to be on that defensive mentality mindset. They threw a small lineup (Friday), and we scored 32 and they only scored 22 in that fourth quarter.”

I could’ve stopped Brooks and reminded him that clearly Friday’s game was different than Sunday’s, but I let him go on talking about having confidence in all of his guys.

When he finished, I asked my original question again.

So, no thought of putting Perk back in the game to stem the tide?

“They’re both good rim protectors,” Brooks said of Perk and Serge Ibaka. “Serge is one of the league leaders in blocks. They both can do that. You have to be able to pick one.”

Two things. First, Ibaka can do a great job protecting the rim, but he sure wasn’t doing a great job in the fourth quarter Sunday. Second, who says putting in Perk meant taking out Ibaka?

Yes, the Clippers were using a small and extremely unconventional lineup that coach Doc Rivers admitted after the game was coaching desperation, not coaching genius. He had Chris Paul, Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Danny Granger and Blake Griffin on the court, a combination that Rivers wasn’t sure he’d ever had on the floor together.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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