NBA Playoffs Celtics Magic Game 5: Apparently Kendrick Perkins Is An MVP

A brief overview in order of importance regarding what cost the Celtics Game 5:

  1. Magic shooting
  2. Poor defense
  3. J.J. Redick running pick and roll
  4. Dwight Howard killing everything in sight (including Kendrick Perkins for his quarter and a half)
  5. Ray Allen 3-11
  6. Paul Pierce 3-8
  7. Kevin Garnett 5-14 (!)
  8. etc.
  9. etc.
  10. etc.
  11. etc.
  12. etc.
  13. etc.
  14. etc.
  15. etc.
  16. etc.
  17. etc.
  18. etc.
  19. etc.
  20. etc.
  21. Kendrick Perkins got ejected unfairly.

And he did, there’s little doubt about that. I went over the reasons Perkins got tagged for the second one at PBT (and if Eddie Rush did warn him, that technical should be upheld. If not, rescind that one too.). The first one’s gotta go, there’s just no excuse for it. I’m not as out of my mind livid about it because the fact that Boston has 18 technicals plays a part here. Should it? Should every instance be judged on its own context? Maybe. But let’s ask this question. If Derek Fisher continues his penchant for bodying up guards at the perimeter with the chest bump, you want the officials to notice that and adapt to that little work around, especially when he tries to draw the charge, right? Context does matter. And Perkins’ penchant for tantrums following a call, often ones that should not be that upsetting, has gotten him a reputation.That reputation comes with consequences. And as I told Celtics Hub, the Celtics play a bullying, brutish, physical style. That comes with consequences. Sometimes that means you’re going to bury a team into submission. And sometimes it means you’re not going to like the calls. But you cannot react to them like Perkins has done consistently. He pushed his luck, and it burned him.

I also think that people are overreacting a bit to the call without knowing what it was Perkins said to the official. “HE WALKED AWAY!’ does not really hold up if accounts like this (which are obviously dubious and uncomfirmed, but so is the argument he said nothing volatile) are accurate. I’m not saying Perkins said something about the officials mother, I’m saying we don’t know if he did or didn’t. We know his elbow slipped on the first one, so there’s ample cause to rescind that technical. Which means that last night’s ejection was unfair. Let me say that again.

Perkins should not have been ejected.

However, what’s causing me to tear my hair out today is the contention that it ended up mattering in this game.

Let’s look at the worst case scenario here. Perkins stays in the game, and then proceeds to do the following:

  • Contain Howard, which he had not done for the quarter and a half he was in. Do you remember the earthquake dunks Howard was delivering in the first quarter that got the Magic going? Yeah, that was on Perkins. It’s definitely true that Kendrick Perkins has the ability to contain Dwight Howard. It’s also true that there are numerous games we can look to and say “Damn, Dwight Howard made Perkins his special friend.” Last night was on track for one of those nights. Howard actually had a better game before Perkins was ejected. He scored 8 of his 21 before Perkins was ejected. So 13 points with Perk ejected, Perk did a better job, right? Wrong. Calculate the hack-a-Dwight free throws and there was really no differential. So yes, it’s entirely possible that Perkins would have gone out in the second half and shut down Dwight Howard. It’s also just as likely that Howard would have killed him, killed him, killed him dead.
  • Make the Celtics make shots. Somehow, I don’t see Perkins helping Ray Allen knock down more shots, or Kevin Garnett start draining big ones. Perkins doesn’t help much on the offensive end. He can get a few buckets, and had a very impressive hook on Howard. He does help on the offensive glass. All these things are true. But his impact on the offensive end was not going to make the difference in this game, and the Celtics, who had a terrible offensive efficiency (comparatively) of 105 (compared to how they’ve been gunning) were not going to turn that around because of him.
  • Defend the perimeter. I get it. “PERKINS HANDLES DWIGHT WHICH MEANS WE DON’T DOUBLE AND THEN THE ROTATIONS ARE THERE!” Except most of the threes the Magic were taking were not the direct result of a Howard double team. It was Pick and Roll. And while Perkins is a good (not great) pick and roll defender, it’s the Celtics’ system that allows them to excel in those situations, and that system broke down because of slow rotations.
  • Guard Jameer Nelson.  Nelson wasn’t killing the Celtics inside. Perkins wasn’t going to allow them better defense on them. He just hit huge shots. Six of his points came off of 1. another long-bomb pull-up three that he’s hit three of in the last two games and 2. a transition PUJIT 3 because the Celtics failed to execute Hack-A-Dwight.
  • Somehow make a 21 point game into a single possession game just for the Celtics to have a chance. Perkins has a huge impact on the team. He does a lot of things really well. He wasn’t going to help them win this game.

***********************************************************************

You know why? Things are regressing back to the mean. The Celtics have been flirting with the heavens during this little run of theirs and the invincibility star they ingested is wearing off and they’re starting to flash back to normal. The Magic were a 57.3% TS% team during the regular season. And in the first three games of this series they shot 49.8, 52.5, and48.7% TS. How much of that is Boston’s defense? The majority. Boston’s defense has been incredible, no denying that. I’ve said on this site, on PBT, on FanHouse, and on Sporting News Radio (which you can catch me on Saturday nights at 11:20PM EST with Larry Brown, I LIKE TO PLUG IT PLUG IT) that the is the best defense I’ve seen since the 08 run. But some of it is also the Magic missing looks. When those shots start to fall, things change. Part of that is the nature of the Magic’s system. Instead of going to something else, they just kept at it, and now those shots are opening up. It’s a grind, and the Celtics are getting tired of running off threes, of battling Howard, Lewis and Gortat for rebounds, and then trying to cover three rotations. The Magic are a good offense. This is just a regression to the mean. The Celtics are still more than capable of holding them under 54% TS%, which is a great job, and kind of the threshold needed to beat the Magic. But there are also going to be nights where the bounces go their way, the threes fall, they get some things going for them.

Offensively, against one of the league’s best defenses, the Celtics have really just kind of maintained. Outside of a few players (Sheed) they’re not really getting outlier performances. Their offensive efficiencies are all within range of their season average. They’re not overachieving. The Magic have underachieved until Game 4. Some of that is the Celtics letting the foot off the pedal. Some of it is the Magic just having a bad run of shots. But now we have the actual series, and if we throw out outliers, it’s a 2-1 Celtics lead in a best of five. Throw out a night where the Magic had several things go their way, and the one where things like Rasheed Wallace hitting a fadeaway three with a defender standing literally shoulder to shoulder with him happened, and you’ve got a 2-1 series lead for Boston and every reason to suspect they can get this done.

I have to wonder if this isn’t everything Orlando can throw at them. It’s a tentative balance, much more so than it was three days ago. The reason? The Big 3 are sputtering. When any combination of 2 of the Big 3 are hitting, you might as well go home. But last night Pierce struggled with the Magic’s physical play of him, Garnett’s head has been AWOL since the start of Game 4, and Allen, well, Allen’s got the best defender in this series on him like white on rice and is still hitting fairly regularly. The Magic have kickstarted the offense and as much as Celtics fans may not want to admit it, Rashard Lewis DOES look like he suddenly got healthier, playing with more energy and the focus on his release has been better.

I still like Boston to close in 6, because I think the Magic will simply fatigue and Rondo will get healthy. He’s a huge factor. When he’s dominating, the Celtics are dominating. He opens those shots up for the Big 3. When he’s hurt, the offense runs through Ray Allen, instead of culminating wit him. Pierce in ISO is a liability against this defense. That’s what it’s going to come down to. I can’t imagine this thing going from 3-0 to 3-3.

… Can you?

UPDATE: Alex Kennedy of Hoops Word reported the Celtics bench was warned just prior to Perk’s second T. The league should uphold that one. (HT: Trey)

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.