By KOLBY PAXTON
I give myself the same pep talk before every Thunder playoff game.
“I’m not going to get upset. Everything will work itself out. I’m just going to relax and enjoy the game. Yelling at my television isn’t going to change anything anyway, you know?”
It never works.
I think I’d have more success if Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka didn’t play for Oklahoma City, but they do, so it doesn’t. I don’t get upset when my team loses, mind you. I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan. That sort of thing has little affect on my mental stability. No, what drives me absolutely stark raving mad is that I have to sit here and watch the exact same things happen over and over and over and over and over... and over.
And then I get to try — and fail — to find a fresh, interesting way to say the same things that I have said 1,000 times before.
1. By the way, where’d all you “Perk brings toughness” guys go?
I had to laugh a little last night as social media erupted with variations of “Perkins stinks.” Most of y’all are about a year late to the party. A couple of my brother’s co-workers, both of whom read this spot, told him that he just “didn’t understand basketball” when he aired our collective disdain for the Thunder center this time a year ago.
This isn’t a new development. Perkins has been a train wreck of a basketball player from day one. We just spent several years trying to talk ourself into the whole idea that toughness and leadership was somehow worth $9 million per year — or even a spot in the starting lineup, for that matter.
Without exaggerating, Kendrick Perkins is the worst starter in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Leadership? Perkins whines and cries around like a 12-year old. If I had a nickel for every time Fisher or Durant has to pull him away from an official, I’d have a lot of nickels. Toughness? What, because he’ll go nose-to-nose with Francisco Garcia? Because he’ll put a hard screen on Patrick Beverley? Cool. You know what’d be really neat, though? If Perkins was “tough” while the ball was in play. Tough on the boards. Tough on Marc Gasol.
Memphis outrebounded the Thunder 43 to 34. Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Shot 62 percent from the floor. He was “defended” — sort of — by a guy that made $23,637 for every point he scored this season.
2. The $12 million man
Of course, poor rebounding and post defending isn’t all Perk’s fault. Serge Ibaka is floating around out there somewhere, or so I’ve been told.
It’s one thing to shrink away from the prospect of playing the role of Kevin Durant’s wingman. Not everyone is built for the spotlight, I suppose. But Ibaka isn’t even fulfilling his responsibility as OKC’s third best player. Not even close. Offensively, Kevin Martin and Derek Fisher have been forced to supplement Durant’s scoring while Ibaka fires blanks from what seems like a mile from the basket. His insistence on playing along the perimeter doesn’t help much on the glass, either, obviously.
Meanwhile, in this series as well as the last, Ibaka is a non-factor on defense save for a few blocks. Randolph is destroying him in the post, humiliating a physically superior player. Why? Because Ibaka wants no part of the physicality that playoff basketball demands. He just wants to shoot jumpers and block the shots of players who cannot see him coming.
And, speaking of redundancy: Perkins and Ibaka could (See: should) be Jeff Green and James Harden.
3. Tantalizingly close
Even without any contribution from the front court, and even without Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are shockingly close to being good enough to advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs looked extremely beatable on Monday night before the Warriors did what the Warriors do. The Bulls exposed Miami a little bit. Russell Westbrook would be six weeks removed from a a torn meniscus when the Finals rolled around — which would seem to suggest that he could return.
See what I did there?
All of that makes this the weirdest month of playoff basketball that I can remember. I have no idea what to think or how to feel. The only thing I do know with any certainty is that Kevin Durant is cold blooded. Just carrying 11 guys and a half-wit coach on his shoulders as if they were stuffed in his backpack.
It was over when... Thabo Sefalosha got beat (again) by Mike Conley who drilled his 11th bucket of the game to put Memphis up four with just under a minute to play.
Quote of the Night: “So, uh, why would you have Perkins on the floor to receive an inbounds pass when you’re down by five with 20 seconds left?”
Because Scott Brooks. Good job, good effort, OKC.