It appeared the Celtics were running out of steam. A 75-60 lead over the Knicks had shrunk to 82-73 with just over three minutes to play. Madison Square Garden, dormant for nearly the entire game, came alive as fans watched the Knicks attempt one final push to win the series in five.
The Celtics, as they had done much of the fourth quarter, ran the shot clock down. First to 15 seconds, and then to 10, and finally down to five. An empty possession would give the ball to New York with about 3:20 on the clock, trailing by nine. However Jeff Green wasn't about to let that happen.
Green fired a three pointer from the left corner, drilling it and putting the C's back up 12. Following a J.R. Smith three (yes Smith did in fact hit a shot..three of them to be precise) the lead was back down to nine when Green again delivered a dagger from the left corner. This time as the shot clock expired he rose over his defender and put one of the final nails in the Knicks coffin.
Green played 43 minutes for the Celtics, and once he entered the game with 11:06 remaining in the 4th quarter, he did not leave the floor again. In the final quarter alone Green finished with 10 points (the aforementioned threes, a driving one hand slam, and two free throws), on his way to an 18 point, 4 rebound, 4 assist performance for the C's.
|Jeff Green: 1, Fedora: 0|
Through five games against the Knicks, Green is leading the team in minutes (43.0 per game) and averaging 20.2 PPG (tied for the team lead), 5.4 RPG and 2.8 APG while shooting 45% from the field, 47% from three and 87% from the line. For a team that has struggled to score, Green has been their most efficient offensive weapon by a long shot, and his defensive efforts on Carmelo Anthony and Smith have been crucial to the Celtics getting back in the series.
The Knicks came dressed for the Celtics funeral, but in part because of Green, it didn't happen. With that said, New York was still dressed appropriately for the night. While the Celtics season may not have been laid to rest, the two year old debate on who won the 'Green for Perk' trade, was. It's over, and it's not even close.
You see, as the Celtics were finishing off their Game 5 in style, the Oklahoma City Thunder were losing theirs. Much like the Knicks, OKC roared to a 3-0 series lead before falling in both Games 4 & 5, and opening the door for a historic collapse at the hands of the Houston Rockets.
Last night in Oklahoma City, the Thunder trailed 76-60 with 3:54 remaining in the 3rd quarter when old friend Kendrick Perkins was pulled from the game. Houston was playing small and therefore Perk's one viable NBA skill, the ability to guard opposing centers, was rendered obsolete. He played 16 minutes in the game, scoring 2 points and grabbing 5 rebounds and his team was outscored by 13 points in his time on the court. When Perk sat, the Thunder outscored Houston by 6 over 32 minutes of action as they lost the game 107-100.
Through five games in his series with the Rockets, Perkins is averaging 2.4 points and 4 rebounds per game over 17.8 minutes. He starts the game, and the third quarter, but often times sits for the last 15 minutes of each half. He is nowhere to be seen in crunch time, and is not counted on as the team looks to either protect a lead, or comeback from a deficit.
Two years ago it was said that the Celtics "lost their soul" when they traded Perk. He was a defensive presence and a leader in the locker room, and there is really no questioning the fact that his trade shook the team up.
With the Celtics loss to the Heat in 2011, and Green's heart surgery before the 2011-12 season, many people thought the trade was a complete one-sided win for the Thunder. But it's turned out to be the complete opposite.
You see the Celtics now have a building block for the future. A 26 year old swingman who has averaged nearly 17 points a game since late January when he started receiving starter type minutes. He is not as consistent as we want quite yet, but he is getting there. He's the type of guy that can sit out five minutes in the entire game and still have plenty in the tank to help finish off a desperate team like the Knicks. He's taken a good amount of injured point guard Rajon Rondo's minutes and ran with them, helping the team have a better record without #9 than they did with him. The best part of all seems to be the 4 year, $36 million contract he signed before this season. Thought to be an albatross at the time, it now seems to be about fair market value with the potential to be a steal if Green ends up being a capable heir to Paul Pierce (something still yet to be seen).
On the other hand, Perkins has never fully recovered from his ACL surgery in 2010. With pure centers it's not smart to purely look at points/rebounds numbers and make a final statement on their value, but basically any way you slice it, Perkins play has fallen off a cliff.
|Perk (left) sat for the final 15:54 in last night's loss|
From 2007-2010 (three years before the knee injury): Perk grabbed 16.2% of all rebounds when he was on the court, blocked 5.0% of all shots and the Celtics were significantly better when he was on the court than when he was off of it (+10 points per 100 possessions when he was on, +7 when he was off).
From 2010-13 (three years after the knee injury: Perk has grabbed 14.5% of rebounds, blocked 3.1% of shots and the Thunder have been worse with Perk on the floor than when he sits down (+6 per 100 possessions when he plays, +8 when he sits). Because of his playing time pattern (playing early 1st/3rd quarters) he played an amazing 98% of his minutes side-by-side with Russell Westbrook (1,916 of his 1,954 minutes played), and 97% of them side-by-side with Kevin Durant (1,899 of his 1,954 minutes played). This shows that the fact that the Thunder haven't played quite as well with him on the court has nothing to do with the quality of teammates Perk plays with, and much more to do with Perk himself.
This isn't meant to rip Perkins, as he was a solid center in his time with the C's, and he certainly helped transform them into an elite defensive team. But that Perk is gone, and has been for some time, and the fact that Danny Ainge got a viable starting quality player for Perk when he did was an incredibly smart move. Celtics fans and media may not have agreed with it at the time, but two years later it's more clear than ever.
Green is flourishing as his team attempts to make history, while all Perkins can do is watch from the bench as his team tries to avoid it.
Perkins line-up and on/off splits from basketball reference
Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13 Michael Dyer 5/02/2013 03:11:00 PM Tweet Edit