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Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, Magic center Dwight Howard an opening-day jewel of a matchup

by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 24, 2011
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Known for his passion and competitive fire, Perkins couldn't even avoid conceding that Howard is a matchup he doesn't enjoy.

“Honestly, nah I don't enjoy it,” Perkins said. “I don't think nobody in the league enjoys it. He's one of the strongest guys and most athletic so you got your hands full all game.”

Yet Perkins established himself in Boston as one of the few centers who could defend Howard without the help of a double team. In fact, when the Celtics shipped Perkins to the Thunder most observers figured the Magic would have an easier path to the title. Orlando and Boston had battled for Eastern Conference supremacy in the previous two postseasons, and it was the Howard-Perkins matchup that consistently impacted the outcomes.

When the two teams met in the 2009 semifinals, Perkins gave Howard all he could handle. Howard averaged 16.4 points, 17.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks, but Perkins produced 10.4 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Perkins also limited Howard to 6.6 foul shots per game, or 4.1 fewer attempts than Howard averaged that season. The Magic ultimately advanced in seven games.

Statistically, Howard had much more success when the teams met again in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals. He averaged 21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and three blocks, but Perkins and the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals after winning in six games.

Howard and Perkins also have faced each other 22 times in the regular season. Howard has the slight edge in terms of team success with a 13-9 record. Sunday's game will be their first time on the court together since Feb. 6.

“The thing with Dwight is he just wants to run free and dunk and go for spinout lobs,” Perkins said. “I think you take away all his easy baskets and make him score over the top. That's when he kind of struggles a little bit. So if you make him score over the top of you and keep your body between him and the rim and make him score tough shots I think you're going to have a pretty good chance of guarding him.”

One thing we know is it'll surely be entertaining.

“It's going to be physical, and hopefully the refs let is stay physical,” said reserve center Nazr Mohammed. “You're going to see a battle.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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Thunder vs. Magic

When: 7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena.

TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722), ESPN (Cox 29, HD 720).

Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM.

Three things to know

* The Thunder split the two-game series with Orlando last season. Each team won on its home floor. Orlando won the last meeting with the Thunder short-handed following trades that brought Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed to Oklahoma City.

* The Thunder went 22-8 against Eastern Conference teams last season.

* This is the Thunder's second consecutive season hosting a game on Christmas. The Thunder defeated Denver, 114-106, at home last season.

Projected starters

Thunder

Pos.; Player; Ht.; Pts.; Reb.; Ast.

G; Russell Westbrook; 6-3;21.9;4.6;8.2

G; Thabo Sefolosha; 6-7;5.1;4.4;1.4

F; Kevin Durant; 6-9;27.7;6.8;2.7

F; Serge Ibaka; 6-10;9.9;7.6;0.3

C; Kendrick Perkins; 6-10;5.1;7.9;0.9

Magic

Pos.; Player; Ht.; Pts.; Reb.; Ast.

G; Jameer Nelson; 6-0;13.1;3.0;6.0

G; Jason Richardson; 6-6;15.6;4.1;1.8

F; Hedo Turkoglu; 6-10;10.8;4.4;4.2

F; Ryan Anderson; 6-10;10.6;5.5;0.8

C; Dwight Howard; 6-11;22.9;14.1;1.4

* Stats are from the 2010-11 regular season.

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