MIAMI - The rest of the NBA knows all about the defensive exploits of Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo but there is another stout defender that is the backbone of the Celtic's defense.
Center Kendrick Perkins always sees a tough assignment and throughout his six-year career, he's shown he can bang with anyone. Asked if Perkins is one of the more underrated defenders in the NBA, coach Doc Rivers said "not in my mind but probably in everybody else's," he said.
Through the first two games of the Miami series, Perkins has whipped Heat center Jermaine O'Neal badly. O'Neal is shooting just 4-of-24 and has scored a mere 10 points. Perkins is always bumping, pushing and making sure his man knows he's not backing down.
"He's a terrific on-ball defender," Rivers said of Perkins. "A lot of centers are good defenders off-ball. Good shot blockers, great helpers. I don't know how many of them are as good as him on their own guy. Perk guards his own guy as well as anyone in the league."
O'Neal, a 13-year veteran who like Perkins entered the NBA right out of high school, is the highest paid player in this series. He's pulling down $22.9 million this year, the final season on his contract. Boston's Paul Pierce and Ray Allen both earn just shy of $20 million a year.
O'Neal may be struggling but the Celtics know he may be one of those players who catches fire under the lights of his home arena.
"Jermaine has had some pretty good shots," said Rivers. "We looked at the shots that Jermaine O'Neal got and he'll take those shots again. We have to do a better job."