Perkins: 'I hope I don't get too emotional'

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Perkins: 'I hope I don't get too emotional'

BOSTON Kendrick Perkins has been in his share of tough games, but none of those experiences could have prepared him for what he's about to face tonight as the former Celtic returns to Boston for the first time with his new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

On the plane ride in, Perkins acknowledged he had chills before it hit the Tarmac.

"Just being back in the city where you grew up from being an 18-year-old boy, to a 26-year-old man," said Perkins, who was drafted by the Celtics in 2003 and was traded to the Thunder last February. "I hope I don't get too emotional. I gotta try and keep at least a little bit of a scowl on my face."

After going out for dinner with former teammate and best friend Rajon Rondo, Perkins saw a series of interviews with Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, Rondo and Kevin Garnett discussing their relationship with Perkins and how he will always be family to them.

"I was hearing them say it about me. I had to catch myself," Perkins said. "It's kind of hard. You get emotional at times. At the same time, you have to come in and focus on playing basketball. So you have to balance out the two, which makes it really hard. You miss everybody around, you grew around and a relationship with . . . it's hard."

Although he's no longer a member of the Celtics, Perkins said it hasn't been easy seeing his old team struggle so mightily this season.

While it's highly unlikely the C's (4-7) will finish with one of the top records in the East, Perkins is convinced they'll be a force come playoff time.

"They're gonna be good. They're gonna make the playoffs. Whatever team they gotta face, I feel sorry for that team. I say they'll hit their stride by late February. Going into April, I see them run off about 10, 11 games in a row and sneak into the 7, 6-spot and make some noise in the playoffs. That's what I believe."

Perkins and his new team shouldn't have any worries about sneaking into the playoffs.

The Thunder (11-2) have one of the most talented and deepest teams in the NBA, and are one of the early favorites to win it all this season.

You don't have to remind Perkins how fortunate he is to leave a franchise that was a title contender, for another one that is also in the championship chase.

"I got a great bond with the guys here (in Oklahoma City) also," Perkins said. "So you leave one great situation and go to another great situation. I'm like, not too many guys in the league get that opportunity. I didn't take it for granted when I was here. I don't take it for granted where I'm at now, either."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

Talk about your basketball extremes.

After losing a 107-106 heartbreaker to Houston and their high-powered offense on Monday, the Boston Celtics will be in for a very different -- and less successful -- foe tonight in the Orlando Magic.

The Magic beat Washington 124-116 on Tuesday night despite John Wall’s 52-point effort, but have been one of the NBA’s most offensively challenged teams this season.

Orlando ranks near the bottom in scoring (29th, 94.6 points per game), field goal percentage (28th, .426) and Pace (24th, 96.71) this season.

But Frank Vogel’s crew has been a defensive force thus far in the East even if their record might suggest otherwise.

They rank among the league’s best in several defensive categories such as scoring defense (4th, 98.0 points per game allowed); opponent 3-point percentage (3rd, 33.0 percent), opponent 3-point attempts (4th, 23.6) in addition to allowing a league-low 8.0 made 3's per game.

That will be a stark contrast from the let-it-fly-all-night style Boston had to contend with against the high-scoring Rockets on Monday.

But this set of games is exactly why Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made of point of trying to put together a roster that was heavy on athleticism and versatility both in the frontcourt as well as on the perimeter.

Against Houston, Tyler Zeller recorded his first DNP-CD (Did not play -- coaches decision) of the season which made sense considering Houston basically plays void of a traditional center.

Orlando, that’s a different story.

Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic now coming off the bench form a physical triumvirate of big men that can cause lots of problems for a Celtics team that will look to attack the paint often.

When it comes to scoring in the restricted area, the Magic allow opponents to shoot 57.6 percent which ranks seventh in the league. They rank highly when it comes to defending mid-range shots (5-10th, 38.3 percent), corner 3's (6th, 34.5 percent) and above-the-break 3's (8th, 33.8 percent) as well.

And while they have had their issues offensively this season, their recent run of success has been in part aided by a much-improved offensive showing. In their last five games, they are shooting 48.5 percent from the field which ranks fifth in the NBA in that span. For the season, the Magic rank 28th while connecting on 42.6 percent of their shots.

Orlando’s improved shooting with a defense that’s stingy as ever, will make this a tough game for Boston to come away with a victory.

Just as the Magic seek to continue their successful ways, the Celtics come into this game with something to prove as well.

While the missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the final minute of Monday’s 107-106 loss certainly were factors in the game’s outcome, there were a series of miscommunications earlier in the quarter that fueled Houston’s late surge.

Following the game, Isaiah Thomas pointed out how he called out a play that Jonas Jerebko interpreted as another play the Celtics called.

The miscommunication led to a turnover and subsequent lay-up which in hindsight looms huge considering the margin of victory was just one point.

“The two play calls sound alike,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “In the heat of battle, I have to do a better job of making sure everybody knows what play we’re running. He (Jerebko) handed the ball back to me when the play wasn’t to hand the ball back to me. That was one of the turnovers that was the key.

Thomas added, “It’s not his fault. As a group, as a point guard, I have to do a better job of letting my guys know what play we’re running. Those little things, especially on the road, those make you lose games. But that wasn’t the play that made us lose. I’m not putting this on Jonas at all.”

Indeed, this team’s success as well as their struggles are the collective efforts of all their core players, Thomas included.

And for them to get back on track, it won’t be one or two players that will make it happen.

It’ll be a team effort, the kind that will allow Boston to find success against different teams no matter how extremely different their styles of play may be.