Perkins' Put-Back Basket Epitomizes Play of Thunder 'Bigs'

It was not the turning point of Game 5; that would come three possessions later in the Thunder’s 106-90 close-out victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

But Kendrick Perkins’ offensive rebound and put-back basket to pull the Thunder within 70-68 with 5:04 remaining in the third quarter certainly can be considered a key moment.

The Thunder and Lakers were battling back and forth. The Lakers twice trailed by five early in the quarter and now were up four with momentum on their side.

The Thunder, needing a basket to stop a 4-0 Lakers burst, put the ball in James Harden’s hands. He drove the lane, drawing defenders to him, and dished to Nick Collison for what appeared to be an uncontested dunk. But the Lakers’ Pau Gasol saw the play, and got his hands on the ball near the rim. Perkins got the rebound, one of 11 he had on the night, and went back up for a basket.

That play underscored the role of the Thunder big men throughout the series: playing tough, securing rebounds and working for one another. The Thunder outrebounded the Lakers, 51-35, in Game 5 and trailed by only two (206-204) for the five-game aggregate.

“The Lakers’ bigs are as good as any bigs in basketball,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “They’re big, they can score, the can block shots and contest the paint. The way Perk battled, obviously he’s coming off of his injury and competing every day with it. We’re all proud of him. Nick and Serge (Ibaka) did a good job. When Naz (Nazr Mohammed) was in the game, he did a good job. They’ve always been our unsung heroes.

“They compete on the defensive side of the floor and they help our guys score on the other end by setting good screens on the offensive end.”

The Perkins putback was his sixth point of the quarter, but his best work, his signature work, takes place at the other end of the court. The Lakers dumped the ball into Andrew Bynum on the low-block, but he had no room to move. Perkins forced Bynum into a tough shot that sent the Thunder running down court.

Kevin Durant launched a 3-point shot that bounced off the rim, but Collison darted through the lane for a two-handed put-back dunk to tie the game at 70-all and send the 18,203 in Chesapeake Energy Arena into a collective roar.

It would only get louder.

On the Lakers’ ensuing possession, Russell Westbrook jumped the passing lane and stole an intended pass from Ramon Sessions to Kobe Bryant. Westbrook sprinted toward the basket, but was fouled by Sessions near the top of the lane. Westbrook released a 15-foot finger roll that went off the glass and in for a 72-70 lead that would grow to three with the made free throw.

The Lakers would tie the game once last time at 73-73, but the Thunder would answer with a decisive 20-4 run and essentially secure its place in the Western Conference Finals.

“I’m really happy for our guys,” Brooks said. “They did a good job of really focusing in and locking in on the defensive end. I thought we won this series on the defensive end of the floor. We can play different ways and different styles of basketball. But the fact of the matter is, if we don’t play defense, it doesn’t matter how well we do offensively; we’re not going to be successful. “