In his second time in Boston since the controversial trade that sent him from the Celtics to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the reception he received at TD Garden was not as loud as his first visit. Yet the feelings are similar for Kendrick Perkins, who grabbed nine rebounds in the Celtics’ 108-100 win.
Perkins spent 6½ seasons here before the February 2011 trade and is still wildly popular among fans. Some observers say the Celtics’ defense has not been the same since his departure.
“Going against guys that you played with for a long time, won rings, went through wars with, still brothers over there,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we’re still trying to win games.
“It is different. It’s a whole other team. I wouldn’t be worried about them right now. They’ll run off a streak in January where they’ll win about 10 or 11 in a row.”
Perkins finished with 5 points, all in the first quarter, and had two blocks. On a couple of occasions, Perkins even ran the Thunder fast break, flipping a bounce pass to Thabo Sefolosha for an easy layup in the third quarter.
Perkins is considerably lighter and more nimble than during his Celtics years, especially since he is two years removed from knee surgery.
Before last season’s Thunder visit in January, Perkins said the Celtics, a struggling team at the time, would make a run at the Eastern Conference crown. They lost the East finals in seven games to the Heat.
Friday’s matchup was the first in which Perkins’s close friend and mentor, Kevin Garnett, was the Celtics’ starting center. And Garnett was key to the Celtics’ defensive effort as they held the Thunder to 42.3 percent shooting in the final three quarters.
“He’s a brother,” Perkins said. “I take a lot of advice, I learned [from him]. But we’re both trying to win. One thing I know about Doc [Rivers], KG, Paul [Pierce], they’re not satisfied so they’re probably not satisfied with the team’s defensive effort.”
While Perkins’s numbers are down (averaging 4.2 points and 4.9 rebounds), Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said the team is getting exactly what it needs from Perkins.
“What he does day in and day out is perfect for what we need,” Brooks said. “We’re not going to him and say, ‘Perk, we need 12 points from you tonight.’ It’s not how we win.
“He had to continue to bring that toughness, bring that spirit to the position. And he does it.”
Jeff Green was one of the Thunder’s top players when he was included in the Perkins trade. Kevin Durant and Green have remained close and Durant, along with many of Green’s former Oklahoma City teammates, reached out to the Celtic when he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm last December.
Green flourished in his first game against his former team, scoring 17 points in 25 minutes.
“Jeff is like my brother, so to hear something like that about one of your closest friends, it’s tough,” Durant said. “So I just prayed for him, let him know I was supporting him.
“Last year we played the Wizards and he was back at home in D.C. and I went to go see him for a few hours just to see if he was doing all right, keep his spirits up.
“Jeff’s a strong-minded person, I really admire that about him. And I’m glad he’s on the court and doing something he loves because that’s tough to be away from the game for a year with something that was almost like life and death. I am extremely happy he’s back.”
Durant and Green played their rookie seasons with the now defunct Seattle SuperSonics and developed a close friendship as part of the Thunder’s youth movement.
“We’ve been through everything and when he got traded we were on the road in San Antonio and were waiting on the bus [to the arena] and it was tough,” Durant said.
“In this league, anything can happen. We moved past it but even though he’s not my teammate he’s still my best friend. He’s a guy that’s going to be that way forever.”
The Celtics wore their alternative uniforms, green and black, for the first time this season, while the Thunder wore white. The teams wore the same uniforms last season in Boston. The Celtics had not worn the alternates since the first two games of the East finals . . . The Celtics were 9 of 17 from 3-point range. The last time they hit as many as nine was last April 17 in a 118-110 loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden (11 of 21) . . . Thunder guard Kevin Martin was held to a season-low 3 points on 1-for-7 shooting. Martin entered Friday averaging 17.8 points . . . The Celtics will take Saturday off and fly to Orlando early in preparation for Sunday’s game with the Magic. Rivers lives in Winter Park, Fla. . . . The Thunder sent center Daniel Orton and forward DeAndre Liggins to Tulsa of the NBADL. Former UConn swingman Jeremy Lamb and ex-Baylor standout Perry Jones are rookies and not getting much playing time. Former BC guard Reggie Jackson has played just 28 minutes this season, having lost playing time to point guard Eric Maynor, who missed most of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament . . . Avery Bradley was active and in uniform for the Celtics for the second consecutive game, but isn’t expected back until late December after having double shoulder surgery.