Kendrick Perkins stood all alone as the last player remaining inside the Thunder's locker room following Wednesday night's win against Utah.
After answering a steady stream of questions by two lingering reporters, Perkins was free to go home. Free to rest his bones after battling Jazz bruiser Al Jefferson for the better part of 26 minutes. But, as he pushed in his black swivel-style chair, Perkins voluntarily offered up one last bit of insight just before calling it a night.
“Tha-bo is my new fav-o-rite de-fen-der,” Perkins announced, elongating each syllable in his South Texas twang for maximum effect.
Five games are all it took for Perkins to realize what suffocating defense Thabo Sefolosha is capable of.
“You tend to take guys like Thabo for granted until you're out there on the court,” Perkins said.
What Perkins has seen in Sefolosha is a perpetual pest, a player who disrupts opposing offenses using skill and savvy, toughness and tenacity. Wednesday's effort by Sefolosha served as the last shred of evidence Perkins needed to see.
In the 106-94 win over the Jazz, Sefolosha helped hold Utah wing players C.J. Miles and Gordon Hayward to a combined 18 points on 3-for-22 shooting. Additionally, Sefolosha supplied adequate help for Perkins on Jefferson, who still managed to bully his way to a game-high 32 points with 12 rebounds. But Sefolosha's smarts and game-changing defensive style had stood out once and for all to Perkins.
Keep in mind Wednesday's effort by Sefolosha came on the heels of him helping to hold Charlotte swingman Stephen Jackson to 18 points on 5-for-18 shooting in a 99-82 win last Friday, as well as a stifling performance that helped limit Dwyane Wade to 21 points on 7-for-21 shooting in a surprising 96-85 road win at Miami on March 16.
“Since I've been playing with him, I've noticed what he brings,” Perkins said. “He takes a lot of pressure off his teammates. That's key when you got a guy like that who you don't have to help as much on. And he's guarding the best wing man every night. That's also taking a lot of pressure off (Kevin Durant).”
If anybody knows defense it's Perkins. Before joining the Thunder, Perkins was one of the linchpins of a defense in Boston that ranked in the top five in points allowed per game the past three seasons while leading the league in defensive field-goal percentage in two of the past three years.
“I definitely appreciate that,” Sefolosha said when informed about Perkins' praise. “It's a nice compliment.”