April 22, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (5) reacts to a foul call against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half of the game at the Staples Center. Lakers won in double OT 114-106. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Kendrick Perkins Injury Update: Can the Thunder beat L.A. without him?


Kendrick Perkins has been a crucial part of the Oklahoma City Thunder all season. His value doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet but it’s definitely there.

Perkins injured his right hip in the first quarter of Game 4 vs. Dallas on May 5 and did not return in the game. The injury would normally keep a player out 10-14 days.

The Thunder will play the Lakers in Game 1 of the conference semifinals tomorrow night at 9:30 p.m. EST, Monday, May 14. That’s nine days since the injury making it seem unlikely that Perkins will be at 100 percent tomorrow night.

He could still play though if he’s not at 100 percent as it is playoff basketball. He was last seen Friday afternoon at the Thunder practice walking without crutches and with no noticeable limp. This type of injury would not necessarily make you walk different but when you are in the game running, getting into a defensive stance and banging is when it would be noticeable.

The Thunder made a tough decision last season to trade Jeff Green to Boston to acquire Perkins. They did it for this specific matchup with the Lakers. They lost to Los Angeles the year before in the first round and it was clear that they needed to get bigger to compete with the then two-time defending champs.

In Game 7 against Denver, the Lakers flexed their sizable advantage as Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for 39 points, 35 rebounds (20 offensive) and 10 blocks. Denver doesn’t have the size that Oklahoma City would have even without Perkins but Gasol and Bynum are going to be quite a load to handle either way.

Perkins averaged 26.8 minutes per game this season but against the Lakers three times he averaged 36.0 minutes. He played well against L.A. averaging 6.3 points, 9.0 rebounds (3.3 offensive) and shot .571 percent from the floor.

Bynum averaged 16.3 points, 11.0 rebounds (3.7 offensive) and shot .444 percent from the field against the Thunder this season. Gasol averaged 18.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and shot .465 percent from the field.

The Lakers’ big men produced against the Thunder this season and needed to partly because of Kobe Bryant’s struggles. Kobe averaged 24.3 points against OKC and shot .307 percent from the field.

The Thunder won two of the three meetings this season against the Lakers and nearly swept them falling in double overtime in the final meeting. The shooting percentages of the Lakers big three were all considerably lower than their averages against the Thunder.

Without Perkins, the Thunder would likely start Nazr Mohammed and continue with their rotation bringing Nick Collison off the bench. Expect the Thunder to go small as much as possible too. Gasol usually starts the fourth quarter without Bynum on the floor so expect Scott Brooks to try and take advantage of that lineup by starting Kevin Durant in that quarter as well.

The Thunder will have a much tougher time matching up with the Lakers if they are without Perkins or he is playing much less than 100 percent. They should still be favored to win the series and win it without question.

The Lakers have much bigger issues in terms of matching up with Oklahoma City’s big three and that advantage for the Thunder should be enough for them to win the series.

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Tags: Andrew Bynum Game 1 Injury Kendrick Perkins Kevin Durant Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Nazr Mohammed Nick Collison Oklahoma City Thunder Pau Gasol Right Hip Strain Scott Brooks Second Round Western Conference Semifinals

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