Kendrick Perkins lingered in the backcourt while his teammates sped the ball upcourt.
Happened a lot last season. But that was because of Perk's sore knee. This was because he wanted a piece of referee Bill Kennedy's time.
Don't know what Gran Torino said, but it was mean enough that Kennedy felt compelled to ask Thunder coach Scotty Brooks for backup.
Good luck with that. Foreman Scotty was in no mood to tell Perkins to cool it. Not with Perk playing championship-level defense on Dwight Howard.
“We don't want to calm down Perk,” Brooks said. “We like him a little angry. We like him mad at his opponent.”
Stay mad, Perk. Stay very mad.
The Thunder bounced Orlando 97-89 Sunday night in one of the NBA's five Christmas openers, and the reasons were many.
Kevin Durant's 30 efficient points. More superb play from the B Team. More emergence of James Harden as a budding star.
But the No. 1 reason was Perkins' defense on Howard. The NBA's best center had just 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting. And it gets better. Three of Howard's baskets came in the first 3:37 of the game.
After Howard's dunk with 8:23 left in the first quarter, he played 26 minutes and 15 seconds more with Perkins in the game. And didn't make a field goal.
“Perk was really good,” said Brooks. “He made him work for everything he had. He was really good staying between Dwight and the basket.”
Perkins credited the Thunder team defense and said of Howard, “I don't think he's had too many nights like that.”
Right on. Atlanta held Howard to six points in a playoff game last spring, but in the regular season, Howard hadn't been held so low since last Christmas, when he scored just six points in a victory over Boston.
We kept hearing how much better Perkins looked this season, compared to the still-rehabbing version we saw down the stretch last season after the trade with the Celtics.
Now we know for sure. Gran Torino has much more than that “Get off my lawn!” stare. His agility and quickness has returned, and now he can back up that Grinch persona. And the Thunder is that much better for it.
On a Christmas Day when the Thunder's chief Western Conference rivals both fell flat at home against one of the East's few elite teams, the Thunder had the chance to do the same.
But after the Heat routed the Mavericks and the Lakers folded down in the final minutes against Chicago, the Thunder didn't follow the same script. The Boomers showed why they have become the West favorite.
Maybe the biggest concern now is Perkins' eligibility. Kennedy later in the game handed Perk a technical foul; in the shortened NBA season, 13 techs will get you a one-game suspension.
“End of the day, I just want it to be fair,” Perkins said. “It happens in a game, a lot of emotions build up.
“I've actually got a pretty good relationship with Billy. So it's all good.”
Brooks said Perk “has to control the emotions. We didn't want the technical fouls to add up. He told me he will slow it down when he gets to nine. Or eight. I'm trying to talk him down to six.”
Yeah, right, Scotty. We saw how interested you are in trying to settle down Perkins. And you're playing it just right.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.