With the Celtics unraveling before our eyes, ESPN naturally turned to a C’s alum—former NBA big man Kendrick Perkins—for his thoughts on Boston’s difficult start to the Eastern Conference Finals. Perkins, who won a title as Boston’s starting center in 2008, weighed in on Marcus Smart’s reported blow-up after Game 2, which saw Boston squander an eight-point, fourth-quarter lead en route to a devastating 106-101 defeat. While some would argue Smart’s locker-room outburst (he and teammate Jaylen Brown had to be separated) was uncalled for, Perk saw it a bit differently.
“Marcus Smart had the right to go off,” said Perk, defending Smart on the basis of his elite defense, particularly in guarding Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. “Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, where are you guys at right now on the defensive end? Kemba Walker, where are you at? The Miami Heat are picking on you right now.” Forced into the starting lineup with Gordon Hayward hurt, Smart has been a huge part of Boston’s success this postseason (at least until this series), draining 32 threes in his past nine games while arguably saving the Celtics’ season with a clutch block of Norman Powell late in their Game 7 win over Toronto.
Perkins didn’t stop there though. “People keep saying that Boston has the better team. And I don’t believe that. I strongly believe that the Miami Heat have the better team along with the better coach,” said an animated Perkins, praising long-tenured Erik Spoelstra, who he considers the “best coach in the bubble.” “[Spoelstra] is out-coaching Brad Stevens right now in this series.”
Now facing a 2-0 series deficit, Perkins doesn’t have much faith in Boston turning things around, suggesting the Celtics would be lucky to force a sixth game. “The Miami Heat team is deeper. They’re more well-coached. I think they have the better team and I do believe that this series is over. I don’t see it going past six.”
The difference in this series, at least in Perk’s eyes, has been the presence of first-time All-Star Bam Adebayo, who followed up his game-deciding block Tuesday night with an emphatic, 21-point, 10-rebound performance in Game 2. “You’re talking about the best big in the Eastern Conference,” said Perkins during his appearance on First Take. “I think he’s No. 3 behind A.D. [Anthony Davis] and Big [Nikola] Jokic right now.”
Whether Perkins believes in them or not, the struggling Celtics will try to pick up the pieces Saturday in Game 3. Tipoff is slated for 8:30 PM ET on ESPN.