Be very, very careful reading much into the end of the regular season when trying to predict the playoffs. The Lakers stumbled the final games of the regular season, Boston took the final few weeks off and was 11-11 right before the playoffs. They were the teams in Game 7 of the finals.
But one thing seems to be different in the East — Boston has lost some of its intimidation factor.
They have replaced Kendrick Perkins’ scowl with nothing right now — Jermaine O’Neal doesn’t count and Shaquille is still out — and the result is teams are not afraid of ventures into the paint.
Speaking of the difference in the Celts since their big trade, Chris Bosh said things were essentially the same in what they try to do. Then he added, “It’s just a difference in players. Kendrick (Perkins) brought a certain element to that team, and it’s not there anymore.”
Look, getting Shaq back matters, no doubt. But the attitude of other teams tells of a perception shift — Shaq does not intimidate. Not anymore, anyway. How much that perception really matters in the playoffs — when the Celtics veterans have rested legs and bring another level of energy — remains to be seen.
Perkins himself Sunday said he is not buying any of it.
“This is nothing for them, they’ll pick it up in the playoffs, believe me,” Perkins said in the Thunder locker room after his new team beat the Lakers. “They’ll be a different team in the playoffs.”