Rivers finds it hard to take Perkins off the floor


Rivers finds it hard to take Perkins off the floor

By A.Sherrod Blakely

PORTLAND, Ore. It's only been two games since Kendrick Perkins returned to the Boston Celtics, and he's already causing problems for Doc Rivers.

For the first few games, Rivers has every intention of limiting Perkins' minutes.

But there's just one problem -- the 6-foot-11 center is playing so well that keeping him off the floor is becoming tougher and tougher.

Perkins played just over 20 minutes on Thursday, but was an integral part of Boston's 88-78 slugfest of a win over Portland.

Just six months removed from surgery to repair a torn MCL and PCL suffered in Game Six of the NBA Finals, Perkins had a near double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds.

"You forget about him out there," Rivers admitted. "I actually turned to Eddie Lacerte, the team's trainer and said, 'Hey, you gotta tell me.' "

While the C's medical staff is concerned with the stability of Perkins' right knee, Rivers is focused more on his conditioning.

"I felt good out there," Perkins said. "Just keep building. I probably could have played a little bit more, but listening to Doc, I know he's going to look out for me."

As well as Perkins played, Rivers is admittedly concerned about not pushing Perkins too hard, too soon.

"He was playing so well in the first half, I left him out there," said Rivers, who has said he would like to keep Perkins in the 16-18 minute range. "Once you go past that number, wind-wise and lung-wise, it's tough even after rest, to come back and play. I have to do a better job of monitoring his minutes."

Achieving that should be easier on Friday night against Phoenix.

The Celtics are banking on Shaquille O'Neal (right hip) to be back in the lineup, probably as a starter.

O'Neal has missed the C's last three games.

Prior to Thursday's win, both O'Neal and Rivers said the plan was for him to play against the Suns.

"I'm good; I've been good," O'Neal said. "Doc told me to take it easy. I've been doing other things; hot tub, hip strengthening exercises. I should be back by Phoenix."

As for Perkins, he's looking forward to playing in his first back-to-back set of games this season.

"Hopefully my body won't be aching," Perkins said. "I'm just looking forward to playing again. It seems like I been on vacation for six months. I have to earn my check a little bit."

The C's were in the midst of one of their worst nights in terms of turnovers, which led to a number of empty possessions.

But it was the solid defense and timely shots around the basket by Perkins, that helped the C's maintain a slim lead going into the fourth quarter.

"The thing when you have Perk back, when you lose Shaq who is a physical presence, you gain that in Perk," said Kevin Garnett. "He has great hands. He can finish around the basket. Defensively, he doesn't need a lot of help. He's a talker. We have that chemistry and rapport with him. To have him back to be a force . . . it's good to have Perk back."

Even if he is making it difficult for Rivers to keep him on the bench, which will probably change soon.

Rivers said he isn't sure when Perkins will return to the starting lineup, but he reiterated on Thursday that it was going to happen.

"He's going to re-enter it. It's just a matter of when," Rivers said. "Perk's a starter, and he'll be a starter at some point. I like our starting lineup with him in it. I like our bench with Baby and Shaq. I think that's terrific."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley


Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley

BOSTON – Another year, another season in which Avery Bradley plans to showcase a new and improved skill that will benefit the Boston Celtics.
But with each improved skill, Bradley moves just that much closer to being an all-around, two-way talent that creates problems for teams at both ends of the floor.
We all know about Bradley’s defense, which was good enough to land him a spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive first team last season. He also gets props for steadily improving his game offensively in some area every summer, but defenses might have their hands full more than ever with Bradley.
According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, the 6-foot-2 Bradley was the only guard in the NBA last season to shoot better than 70 percent in the restricted area among players who took a minimum of 200 field goal attempts.
He is among a list that includes Los Angeles Clippers big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin; Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; current teammate and former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford; San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge; Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Atlanta big man Dwight Howard.
But if you’re thinking about keeping him away from that part of the floor, Bradley also made the 3-point shot a bigger part of his offensive game last season; as in, 40 percent of his shots came from beyond the 3-point line.

Having that kind of diversity makes him a difficult player to get a clear read on how to defend. And because of that, it may open things up even more so for his teammates.
Bradley can shoot from the perimeter; he can score close to the rim. His ball-handling skills have improved in the offseason to where it no longer looks as though it’s a major weakness.
And he defends at a level few players in the league can match.
Collectively it makes Bradley one of the many challenges awaiting teams whenever they face the Celtics, a player who is poised to showcase his diverse set of skills beginning tonight against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue


Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue

Tonight’s pregame number to watch is 45.4%. That was the Celtics' score frequency on pick and rolls finished by the screener last season, which was the worst rate in the NBA.

Score Frequency: The percentage of possession in which the team or player scores at least 1 point.

The major problem for the Celtics last season was personnel, as Jared Sullinger finished the most pick and roll plays for the C’s after setting a screen, and he was -- to put it nicely -- freaking terrible. Sullinger was the second-worst roll/pop man in the league, averaging a paltry 0.87 points per possession.

Fortunately, the Celtics replaced Jared Sullinger with four-time All-Star Al Horford, who is one of the elite roll/pop men in the NBA. Last season, Horford finished fifth in the NBA averaging 1.13 points per possession as a roll/pop man and boasted a more than solid 57.1 eFG% on those plays. 

eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage): Measures field goal percentage adjusting for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. The equation is ((FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

If you watched the preseason, then you already know the kind of impact Horford can have on the Celtics half court offense. So keep an eye out for those pick and rolls tonight and throughout the season, and we should see that 45.4% Score Frequency jump somewhere closer to 50%.