Commentary

Perkins' offense lost in shuffle

Updated: June 9, 2010, 9:23 PM ET
By Peter May | Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- It's not as if they look to him for points. Kendrick Perkins is many things to the Boston Celtics: enforcer, post defender, shot-blocker, rebounder.

But scorer?

As it happens, there was a time, and it wasn't very long ago, when Perkins was a legitimate outlet in the post. His teammates would get him the ball, and he would do something with it other than turn it over or get swamped by defenders. It's just that seeing him morph into Chris Dudley these past couple of months makes those days seem like a distant memory. But those days are not so far removed from the NBA Finals.

[+] EnlargeKendrick Perkins
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonKendrick Perkins' offensive numbers has been down considerably the last couple of months, a trend that has continued in the Finals.

Consider:

Perkins in November: 11.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 63.3% shooting, 27.6 mpg

Perkins in December: 12.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 67.3% shooting, 28.6 mpg

Perkins in January: 11.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 58.8% shooting, 31.9 mpg

And …

Perkins in the playoffs: 6.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 50% shooting 25.6 mpg

Perkins in the NBA Finals: 8.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 53.8 % shooting, 26 mpg

"He was far more effective early in the year," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday.

Which leads to the obvious question: Where has the Perk from the first three months of the season gone? And is it too late to get him back? He had five points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes in Game 3 on Tuesday night and did not get off the bench in the fourth quarter. He was not happy about that and didn't speak to reporters. He did talk Wednesday, though.

"I didn't really have [an offensive game]. I didn't get into the flow or nothing. I struggled a little bit offensively. It happens," Perkins said.

He took only four shots despite getting five offensive rebounds. He made only one of them.

No one is going to confuse Perk with Hakeem Olajuwon in the post, but in the first few months of the 2009-10 season, he had a more-than-serviceable jump hook and turnaround jumper from short range. His teammates went to him; he averaged almost 7.5 shots a game. And, as the above stats show, he converted more than 60 percent of them.

In the first eight games of 2010, for example, Perkins averaged 14.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He shot 62.5 percent from the field.

In the playoffs, all that has changed. (Actually, it started to change in February, March and April.) Perkins is averaging 4.3 field goal attempts against the Lakers after averaging 4.2 against Orlando, 3.6 against the Cavaliers and a comparatively lusty 5.6 against the Heat. Plus, he's making only a shade more than he's missing.

Perkins tries to put the ball on the floor, and bad things happen. He tries to up-fake his defender, and bad things happen. Is he injured? Is it confidence? Better defense? Is he too timid because he's worried about fouls and, by extension, picking up that dreaded next technical, which would result in a one-game suspension?

Rivers has told Perkins to play his game and not worry about the fouls or potential technical. The only problem: Perkins is playing his game of late, not his game of recent yore.

"He has gotten away from finishing quickly," Rivers said. "You guys have been around the game long enough to know guys work on something all summer, they come back in the year and they do it right out of the gates and they're successful with it. And then they get away from it, and it's tough to get it back. We work on it every day. We work on it pregame: bounce pass, catch, straight up."

Rivers cited a play from Game 2 that he called one of his favorites of the series. Unfortunately, it was a play by the Lakers, as Pau Gasol came out to the high post and threw an alley-oop to Andrew Bynum, who deposited the ball in the basket. The ball never came down until it hit the floor after Bynum's dunk.

"It was like a big-man textbook move that you would show to all," Rivers said of the Gasol-Bynum collaboration. "That's what we have to get Perk doing a better job of: rolling better, catching and finishing. Right now he's gathering again. We thought we got him out of that, [but] he's back to it."

So much has happened to the Celtics' offensive flow in this series that the ongoing trials and tribulations of their fifth option -- starting center -- tend to get overlooked. Paul Pierce has had two subpar games in a row. Kevin Garnett had two subpar games to open the series. Ray Allen went 0-for-13 in Game 3. Rasheed Wallace is hurting.

It wasn't that long ago that Perkins was a viable option, or at least you wouldn't cringe when he got the ball down low. Now he looks confused and bewildered when he gets the ball. He's making Glen Davis look like the NBA's premier finisher.

"I don't know," Perkins said when asked about the 2009 Perk versus the 2010 Perk. "It's all mental, I think. I'm so locked in defensively, I'm doing my role, that I go into games and I'm not even worrying about offense. I'm going to do a better job [in Game 4]."

File that under "Welcome news for the Celtics" -- should it actually happen.

Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

Peter May

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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