The guy who plays “Eastern Conference basketball” had five dunks Sunday night. Strangely enough, that was good news for the Thunder against the Miami Heat.
Kendrick Perkins, who now plays on a greyhound team but remains the brute he was in Boston, turned his aggression to offense as well as defense, kept catching passes for easy baskets, mostly from Kevin Durant, and the Thunder rolled 103-87 in a game that restored its reputation for quality play.
The Thunder got 10 dunks, only two on breakaways. The Boomers moved the ball with precision and found not just the open man, but even better. An open big man, close to the basket.
“If we're getting dunks, it's a function of good offensive play,” said Nick Collison. “It's a good sign for our team.”
This was a heck of a sign for a team that has played just so-so since the all-star break. But the Thunder played superbly Sunday night.
The Heat, defensive demons who like to double-team off screens, paid the price for such tactics. Durant, especially, but James Harden and Russell Westbrook, too, made Miami pay. The Thunder trio combined for 20 assists.
“Our bigs were doing a great job separating,” Scotty Brooks said. “Taking big steps. Our bigs were open.
“We played as physical as we could possibly play.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the Thunder played not just aggressively, but with the “details of playing with force.”
Serge Ibaka had 19 points and 10 rebounds. But Ibaka, you expect to get 19 points on occasion. You never plan on Perkins getting 16.
“He brought his game that we are familiar with,” Spoelstra said. “It is Eastern Conference basketball. It wasn't just him. But to a man on that team, they got us on our heels on both ends of the court.”
Perkins always is good for clogging the paint, and he was again Sunday, not allowing Dwyane Wade and LeBron James easy access to the basket. But Gran Torino also played with a mean streak on offense, setting hard screens, then heading for the basket with purpose.