Celtics step forward with Perkins

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
9:20
AM ET
ESPN.com's John Hollinger checks in from Portland with an update on Kendrick Perkins and his unexpected quick return to the court after offseason ACL surgery:

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It was in most respects a fairly perfunctory 88-78 win over an outmanned Portland team for the Celtics on Thursday night, but there is one aspect of this game that has big implications for the season as a whole.

Put simply, Kendrick Perkins was a beast. And if he can return to the lineup as a reasonable facsimile of the Perk of seasons past, it gives Boston another weapon in its quest to regain the championship.

The 6-10 center, who tore two right knee ligaments in Game 6 of the Finals last June and has been recuperating all season, gave the team a big lift off the bench in his second game back from injury with ten points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes. His statistics were good, but the qualitative side was even better. He didn't appear to have issues leaping or running, supplied his usual nails-tough post defense to help thwart Portland's leading scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge, and added healthy dollops of physicality and trash-talking swagger.

So good was Perkins that Boston coach Doc Rivers left him far longer than he'd originally planned in the first half, leaving Perkins weary. But while Perkins said his timing and conditioning are still far from peak level, his knee hasn't been a problem.

"I'm not where I want to be," said Perkins, "but I'm happy where I'm at."

"He was terrific," said Rivers. "I extended his minutes too long, because he was playing so well... I turned to [trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] and said. "Hey, you gotta tell me.' Eddie said he was good, but Eddie was looking at his legs and I was looking at his lungs."

Perkins' return could also come with benefits for Boston's shooters, as he showed with one of his trademark earth-shattering screens that absolutely leveled Portland's Wesley Matthews. While the play was called an offensive foul, it was indicative of the plays he's been making to set up teammates for the past three seasons.

"He and Kevin [Garnett] are clearly our two best screeners," said Rivers. "Ray [Allen] and Paul [Pierce] have really been looking forward to him getting back."

Perkins may not play as much in the Celtics' next game on Friday against Phoenix, both because the Suns sometimes play small and because he's on a back-to-back after a long flight, but he's itching for more activity and is likely to get it soon. With Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal both battling injuries of their own, Rivers may continue finding it troublesome to keep Perk's minutes down.

"Hopefully my body won't ache and I'll be good," said Perkins. "I'm just looking forward to playing. I feel like I've been on vacation for six months."

Click HERE to read all of Thursday's Daily Dime.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksB. Bass 0.9