Thunder-Celtics Preview

Kendrick Perkins said it “felt like the worst day of my life”

when he got traded away by the Boston Celtics.

As it turns out, he may have gotten out just in time – and moved

to one of the best possible situations.

Perkins returns to Boston with the surging Oklahoma City Thunder

to face his former team for the first time Monday night, and the

aging Celtics are in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

These clubs surprised the league with their deal just before the

deadline last season, with Boston sending Perkins and Nate Robinson

to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Perkins will be

the only one of those four in this game, with Robinson having moved

on to Golden State, Green recovering from heart surgery and Krstic

playing in Russia.

Perkins, who spent seven-plus seasons with the Celtics and was

the starting center on the 2008 NBA championship squad, said he was

initially devastated by the trade but felt differently upon

arriving in Oklahoma City.

“It kind of felt like the worst day of my life when I got traded

from the C’s, from being there so long. But when I got here, it

kind of took my mind away from everything, I think, and everything

just kind of blew me away,” Perkins said last March. “It was kind

of the worst but best day.”

The Celtics’ chemistry was negatively affected by the trade,

with Kevin Garnett saying at the time that “you feel like you lost

a family member.” Boston was trying to piece together a roster for

another title run, but it lost in five games to Miami in the

conference semifinals.

Now, it appears the veteran-laden team’s window is closing fast.

Another loss Monday would give the Celtics (4-7) their first

five-game losing streak and first four-game home skid since Garnett

and Ray Allen arrived to join Paul Pierce in 2007.

They lost 97-83 at Indiana on Saturday, prompting Pacers leading

scorer Danny Granger to wonder if Boston’s stars are simply too

old.

“One thing you can’t battle, you can’t fight, is age,” Granger

said. “They all are Hall of Famers, but you get to a point where

age catches up with you and it’s hard to compete at the level you

once competed at. I don’t know if they’re there yet. They still

could bounce back this season.”

The condensed schedule, however, may be making things even

tougher for the Celtics’ veterans. Coach Doc Rivers said he had a

bad feeling about Saturday’s game just by looking at the schedule,

which had Boston facing Chicago on Friday – an 88-79 defeat.

The young Thunder (11-2) are handling the frequent basketball

just fine. They won three games in as many nights earlier this

month, starting a six-game winning streak that continued with

Saturday’s 104-92 victory over New York.

Oklahoma City used a familiar formula, getting a combined 73

points from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Durant and Westbrook didn’t even play in the fourth quarter of a

game far more lopsided than the final score.

“You don’t go into a game thinking that the starters will not

play in the last quarter but it’s always nice,” coach Scott Brooks

said.

All three of the club’s offensive stars rank in the top 25 in

scoring, while Perkins has provided a strong defensive presence

inside.

That was also the key component he brought the Celtics. Boston

still wonders whether it would have won another title if Perkins

hadn’t injured his knee during Game 6 of the 2010 finals against

the Lakers, missing a narrow Game 7 loss.

Now, his new club looks primed for a championship run, leading

the Western Conference and looking to improve to 6-1 on the road.

The Thunder are also seeking a third straight victory in Boston

after winning there last season despite Durant sidelined due to a

sore ankle.