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Perkins sitting key to solving Thunder’s Shane Battier problem

Jun 15, 2012, 4:03 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One Getty Images

You can’t take away everything.

One man cannot stop LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, you need a team defensive effort, you need bigs rotating into the paint as shot blockers. But that comes with tradeoffs.

Serge Ibaka is one of the game’s best shot blockers and he has hung near the paint to protect the rim when Wade and James drive. It’s what he does. But the tradeoff through two NBA finals games is in doing so he lets Shane Battier roam free out at the arc — the result is two 17-point games and 9-of-13 shooting from three by Battier this series. Battier is a key reason this series is 1-1 heading to Miami.

It’s a problem the Thunder need to deal with.

The temptation is to say Battier will come back to earth (or regress to the mean, you like math terms). He shot 33.9 percent from three this season and 38.2 percent for his career. He can’t keep up this pace, right? Actually, maybe he can. The lucky shots (like that banked three in Game 2) will not fall forever, but mostly he is getting wide open looks with his feet set. Let him do that and Battier is going to hit a high percentage of threes.

What can the Thunder do about it? Sit Kendrick Perkins — 7 of Battier’s 9 threes have come when Kendrick Perkins is on the floor. OKC must go small faster and for longer stretches.

Follow me on this one. Perkins was brought in to Oklahoma City to deal with the likes of Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard, more traditional centers. Miami doesn’t have anyone like that. Against the Heat, Perkins draws Chris Bosh and that leaves Ibaka — whose strength is as a shot blocker flying in from the weak side — to choose between protecting the rim and hanging out at the arc with Battier.

The result is Ibaka goes for the block, Wade kicks it out, the rotation is almost always slow to non-existent, and Battier gets a good look at a three. And he buries it.

It’s not just me saying this. There is our own Rob Mahoney at the New York Times. Sebastian Pruitti wrote about it at Grantland. And in case you think Perkins is helping out the Thunder offense, that is wrong as well.

Less Perkins, more James Harden. Way less. Like don’t start Perkins. I know Perkins has a time and place, but this finals is not it. The Thunder just also need to be more aware in transition and pick up Battier at the arc because they are again ignoring him to protect the paint and paying the price.

  1. gmen4life33 - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    Pretty good point made in the article. I feel like Collison/Ibaka instead of Perkins/Ibaka would limit open 3’s by MIA role players and force LBJ/Wade to control the whole game (which they can do, but its very difficult). Also, Perkins coming off the bench might also help OKC get off to a fast start so they arent down 10 after 4 minutes. Collinson is the ultimate hustle guy and OKC should start him

    • michflaguy - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:30 PM

      Problem is that Collison simply cannot handle defending Bosh. He is a hell of a shot-blocker…under the rim. Bosh goes hog-wild with 15-foot jumpers when Collison is on the floor. This is a serious issue for OKC.

  2. labratre - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    Perkins is big, slow and clumsy as hell! Kind of Frankensteinish! Lol!

  3. pmd5319 - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    This isn’t a groundbreaking idea. He played only 25 min in Game 1 and only 20 min in Game 2. He will be down around 15-20 min per game for the rest of the series. I enjoy the “Follow me on this one” line, as if you are presenting a mind-boggling idea. Not writing an article until you actually have something to write about is better than writing a dumb one.

    • LPad - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:32 PM

      I’ll just also point out that the Thunder went with Collison/Ibaka to also help neutralize the Spurs spot up shooters and stretch 4s, so this isn’t exactly an Achilles heel.

  4. michflaguy - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    Perhaps the Thunder simply do not have an answer for an “outlier” like Battier. They have prepared so well for LeBron, Wade & Bosh…but that may be the beauty of the Heat. You can’t stop *everyone* because they have SO MANY weapons. All great championship teams had those role players that rose to star status in the Finals because they would always be the “guy left open” for an easy 3. Hell, OKC need look no further than their own bench for the best example of this type of player…Derek Fisher. He made a career from being the guy left open after the opposing team had to deal with Kobe & Shaq. Robert Horry also comes to mind. There have *always* been teams like the Heat with multiple superstars (80’s Lakers & Celtics, Spurs, ’08 Celtics)…so maybe Battier will go down in history as another Robert Horry or Michael Cooper or Scottie Pippen (yes, I just said that!). The role-player left open to drain wide-open 3’s that put the dagger in the heart of the losing team.

    • pmd5319 - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:28 PM

      “or Scottie Pippen (yes, I just said that!). ”
      ________________________________________________________________________________

      You do realize that Scottie Pippen is in the Hall of Fame and was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, right?

      • michflaguy - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:32 PM

        Yes…because he played side-by-side with THE greatest player of all-time. If you had to defend against that Bull’s team, you’d design the entire defense to stop Jordan and rely on 1-on-1 coverage for the rest of the team…including Pippen. Ever notice how bad the Bulls were when it was just Pippen? There is a good reason for that…Jordan was not there and Pippen had to play against defenses designed to stop HIM – and they did, quite effectively.

      • chicitybulls - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:36 PM

        You obviously dont know what you’re talking about. Pippen almost (and should’ve) lead the Bulls to the Finals except for a bad call by a ref. Only dumb fans say that Pippen is a top 50 all time player and a hall of famer b/c he played with Jordan. Former players and coaches NEVER say that. I’ll take their word over yours.

      • hickoryhigh - Jun 16, 2012 at 12:51 AM

        michflaguy

        Yeah, I noticed how bad the Bulls were without Jordan, 55-27 and 47-35. And it’s obvious you never played basketball, so let me help you out. Nobody ever designed a defense to “stop” Jordan, LeBron, Durant, Kobe or any other great scorer. You accept that they are going to “get theirs” and you try to minimize the impact of the other 4 guys. Case in point, the way the Celtics locked down on Wade in the last series even when Lebron was scoring 30+ every game. If they wanted to stop LeBron they’d have to triple team him, which obviously won’t work. What’s funny is you might have had some people supporting you if you had left out the Pippen comment. But all clowns give themselves away, don’t they?

    • thestudiokida - Jun 16, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      Pippen is one of the top 5 defenders of all time and led the Bulls to a 55-27 record in his only year with the Bulls and without Jordan. You, sir, are an idiot.

  5. barkley4life - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    The Pippen comment took away all your basketball knowledge credibility. Pippen was a b.s. Hubert Davis coppull away from taking the Bulls to the Finals by HIMSELF.

    • barkley4life - Jun 15, 2012 at 5:24 PM

      Foul

    • ndirishfan1 - Jun 15, 2012 at 5:35 PM

      Pippen was amazing in 93-94, but it’s also amazing how many people forget the Knicks and Bulls played in the Eastern Conference Semifinals that year. The Knicks beat Indiana to get to the NBA Finals and the Pacers were playing some pretty good basketball at that point, so it’s no foregone conclusion Chicago makes it to the Finals.

      You’re right though, Pippen was playing MVP like basketball that season.

  6. dgbk - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    perkins touch the ball usually lead to a travel or an ofensive foul… i never saw a vet which such lil ofensive skills….

  7. scalfor3 - Jun 15, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    collison is way more effective when harden is out there with him. those two work well together.

    perk is kinda miscast in this matchup. he did rebound pretty well when he was out there. if the heat are gonna start the lebron, battier and bosh frontcourt, perk should come off the bench. give the guys a rest and battle on the boards with haslem

    • passerby23 - Jun 15, 2012 at 5:54 PM

      I agree. Start Collison and Ibaka and bring Perkins off the bench when Haslem is in the game. Fouls will change things, of course, but Haslem is a guy you can stick him on. The Thunder have only played about 2-3 good quarters this series so far so I expect them to play better no matter who is out there.

  8. sellahh - Jun 15, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    Like my first thought reading the title, no Perkins is key.

  9. sellahh - Jun 15, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    Oh and i loved them arguments with ppl claiming Perkins is a good shotblocking and rotating big man. All he can do is guard big man 1on1.

  10. turnmymicup - Jun 15, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    Battier will be ready game 3. These shots that are dropping aren’t from luck. LeBron and Wade are doing a great job at getting into the paint. They are forcing OKC to commit every time one of them have the ball. Battier is getting some really good looks at the hoop. Bosh is also benefiting from this. LETS GO HEAT.

    • hickoryhigh - Jun 16, 2012 at 1:00 AM

      Battier hasn’t been lucky, but at the same time, he’s not going to continue to hit 70% from 3. It’s just math, over time he will move closer to his career average. The Heat need to make sure they have a plan for when those shots stop falling.

  11. sheanjett - Jun 15, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    Get him out Too unathletic for this series Jus the traveling turnovers at least twice a game r a killer

  12. Louis Tumblin - Jun 15, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Perkins is not a good match up for any Heat player in this series. The pace is too quick for him.

  13. borderline1988 - Jun 17, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    Very good article.

    Perkins is getting torched out there. If the Heat bust out Turiaf, Haslem, or Anthony, then maybe the Thudner can play Perkins. But otherwise, he belongs on the bench, because he has zero chance of guarding Bosh or Battier one on one, and that’s all he’s really good for (defending post players man to man).

    Btw, Battier hitting those 3s are impressive, but what about those drives and floaters/hook shots? Who saw that coming?
    Battier right now is the second most important player on the Heat. He’s playing 43 minutes a game and constantly guarding OKC’s best players.

    I”ve heard enough about Sefalosha, he’s just a poor man’s version of Battier.

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