Lakers shed 'soft' label for one night, outmuscle Celtics in Game 5
That was the word used most frequently to describe the Lakers' style of play during the 2008 NBA Finals.
So what happened in Game 5?
The Lakers toughened up.
How? Two words.
If you're just looking at box scores, Perkins is easy to miss: The Celtics' starting center is averaging just 6.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in the postseason. But the contributions of Perkins, who missed Sunday night's Game 5 with a shoulder injury, go beyond the numbers.
He is the yin to Garnett's yang in the Boston frontcourt, a burly presence willing to mix it up with the most physical opposing big man, leaving Garnett to roam free on defense -- if Garnett had given an Academy Award-style speech after winning Defensive Player of the Year, Perkins would have been the first person he would have thanked -- and conserve valuable energy for the offensive end. That's the dynamic in great frontcourts.
With Perkins sidelined, the Lakers suddenly morphed into a physical team. Gasol (19 points, 13 rebounds) looked rugged. Odom (20, 11) had an edge to him. The Lakers won the rebounding battle (40-37) for just the second time this series, while keeping the likes of Garnett and
"That's the reason guys start," said Garnett. "Perk is a physical guy. He plays the post better than anyone in this league."
"I guess they did miss him," acknowledged Gasol. "He's a bigger presence than their other guys. They were forced to go into a smaller lineup, which sometimes is good and it could be helpful to their team; but having a bigger body out there is a positive thing. And Perkins has been playing well for them all playoff long."
Perkins' playoff run, however, may be over. Perkins dislocated the same shoulder in 2006, an injury that eventually required surgery. Prior to Game 5, Celtics coach
"We have to have more physicality to us," said Rivers. "I thought [the Lakers] started out the game more physical. They posted when they wanted to post. They caught the ball in the spots they wanted to catch the ball on. I thought they forced us off our spots offensively. We told them before the game, this was going to be a game of who could invade the other person's space, and I thought they invaded our space."