NBA Playoffs 2011: Celtics Burned by Heat, Perkins Plays on

Zachary StanleyCorrespondent IMay 12, 2011

MIAMI, FL - MAY 01:  Rajon Rondo #9  of the Boston Celtics looks on  during Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on May 1, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

After I watched the Celtics (for the second straight game) get choked out by the Heat in a fashion that I had seen before, I was hoping that Wednesday's second game would help to bring my mood up ever so slightly.

After all, the Grizzles and Thunder had just competed for one of the more exciting playoff overtime games in recent vintage. 

What I got was a 27-point blowout, in which the Grizzlies looked more like Memphis fans might have worried they would look like with Rudy Gay going down. I'm not saying Game 5 was anything more than a poor performance. 

Still, the Grizzlies reminded us how difficult it is to win consistently when you don't have that reliable jump shooter. Memphis shot 2-8 from three and 35 percent overall, while displaying an unusual lack of effort while teaching a lesson in poor ball-handling. 

As I watched the Thunder crowd cheer relentlessly until the final seconds ticked off, I encountered an all to familiar feeling. 

There he was, enforcing the post like a moving boulder—Kendrick Perkins. 

A strength and presence that seemed no more apparent since he got into a Thunder uniform. It was the Perkins I remembered—the Perkins that could make a good team great just by being on the court. 

He walked off the court in the third quarter, pumping up the crowd sporting his ever-likeable “I'm a bad man” muck (if he's on your team, that is). 

Nate Robinson was the cherry on top of Perks' sundae. 

After Nate spent the first series and a half of the playoffs as the NBA's unanimous No. 1 Cheerleader, Robinson drained a three in his lone minute of play. 

Energy, energy, energy. 

To think that it has been three years since the Celtics ran a Game 6 romp on the Lakers to the tune of 39 points (I was there, by the way). 

I am certainly not saying that Robinson's cheer-factor had anything to do with the Celtics' success last season but he was decent asset when you combined his pom-poms with his scrappy play. 

The Celtics burned themselves with the plays of an uneasy team. They committed turnovers, missed assignments and finally had an encounter with Father Time. 

The Heat proved too fast and too athletic for a team that already knew it's days were limited.

The Celtics suffered from an inability to prevent Dwyane Wade and LeBron James from attacking the rim while giving up all-to-often second chance opportunities. 

Why? Perkins. 

Now, that is not say that I thought the Celtics would lose this series because I did not. 

Turning Point: Rajon Rondo falls victim to a frustration foul by Dwyane Wade in the second half of a dominant Game 3 victory that renders Rondo's left-arm virtually useless. 

Rondo clearly wasn't himself in the second half of the season (which I will continue to blame on a slew of nagging injuries because I wouldn't deem any other explanation tolerable). 

Rondo had been slower and less aggressive for the majority of the playoffs in a time when the Big Three needed their fourth much more than they had a few years ago. 

If playing with one arm wasn't enough to see how damaged Rondo was, his minutes in the fourth quarters of Game 4 and Game 5 had to be. 

A less mobile Celtics team that has become less and less capable of creating it's own shot needed Rondo to create it for them. 

Note: This does not mean that Boston would have won the series with a healthy Rondo (who wasn't even healthy to begin with), but to think they had a chance after the injury is foolish (even though Rondo's heroics assured him his place in Celtics' lore). 

Could the Celtics have won the title without Perkins? Maybe (thanks to the demise of LA and a less threatening group of big men leftover). 

Could the Celtics have won the title with Perkins and a post-injury Rondo? I say no. Not this year.

Sure, Delonte West did a fine job filling in on both ends but he will never be the facilitator and distributor that Rondo is.  

The fact that the Celtics' hopes were dashed, in part, by another injury will quickly be forgotten. 

The fact that this is the third year in a row that an injury has made Boston's championship chances go from hopeful to nearly impossible shouldn't fade from the broken hearts of Celtics' fans anytime soon. 

The Celtics scored 13 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4 (17 including overtime) and 14 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5 with Rondo missing the majority of both. 

With more pressure being put on Boston's Big Three to make plays, the trio simply ran out of gas offensively (not saying I don't give Miami's late defense some credit). 

Rondo played a playoff-low 30 minutes (least in last three playoff years) in Game 5, posting his worst stat-line of the playoffs, finishing with six points, three assists and two boards.