Celtics Notebook

Perkins is given a break

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 16, 2010

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WALTHAM — Coming off six grueling games guarding Shaquille O’Neal, Celtics center Kendrick Perkins sat on the sidelines at the team’s practice facility yesterday, ice wrapped around both knees.

He missed the Celtics’ only practice before they start the Eastern Conference finals today against the Magic in Orlando, but coach Doc Rivers expects his best low-post defender to be ready come game time.

“His knee’s bothering him,’’ Rivers said. “He tried to go early and it started bothering him a lot. He wanted to go and I said, ‘I’m not going to need you tonight. You’re not going to help me today in practice. I need you tomorrow.’ So I just sat him down.’’

Perkins’s physical defense has given Orlando’s Dwight Howard fits in the past, and for that reason the seventh-year big man is considered one of the keys to the series for the Celtics.

“We’re going to ask him to do a lot of one-on-one guarding with Dwight Howard, because we can’t really come off the rest of these guys the way they shoot the ball on the perimeter and the way they’re swinging and driving,’’ said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. “I think in the past Perk has played him pretty well and we’re going to ask him to do that again, especially coming off a tough series where he had to guard Shaquille O’Neal.’’

The Celtics have more depth in their frontcourt than they did a year ago, when Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe went down with injuries. They brought in Rasheed Wallace for situations like these.

“He’s equally as big, because you’ve got two guys that are capable of guarding Dwight Howard one-on-one,’’ Pierce said. “He’s going to be key, too, and, eventually, if Kevin has to guard him, then we’ve got another guy who can guard him one-on-one.’’

Value-added defense
Howard is the league’s two-time Defensive Player of the Year, taking the award in a landslide this season, but he’s never finished higher than fourth in the MVP running. His impact on games defensively dwarfs his offensive ability, but Ray Allen said he wouldn’t be surprised if one day an award typically reserved for scorers goes to a dominant stopper. “He can dominate a game by getting so many blocks, and then if you can get two dunks and then get so many blocks and control the game and have so much energy where you’re an intimidator, people will see that and watch and talk about it,’’ said Allen. “If they’re controlling teams and keeping them to a low field goal percentage and he’s at the helm of that, it’s definitely possible.’’

Thinking fast
Through two series, the Celtics have made opponents pay in transition, averaging 15.3 fast-break points a night while allowing 8.8. Teams game-plan so much for each other in the playoffs, Pierce said, that the transition game is one of the few X-factors. “At this point, everyone knows the plays you’re going to run in the halfcourt, and they put together defensive schemes to stop that,’’ said Pierce. “The easiest play you’ve got on the basketball court at this point is the fast break, where you get an advantage.’’ . . . Rivers strayed away from comparisons between himself and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, saying that unless either of them could make a shot, comparisons were irrelevant. He then joked that Van Gundy probably would win a shooting contest. “I think Stan could beat me in a sprint contest, too,’’ said Rivers . . . Magic forward Matt Barnes missed practice with back spasms but expects to start today.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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