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Last stand

Celtics must face Lakers in Game 7 without Perkins

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 17, 2010

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LOS ANGELES — Lying in his hotel bed as an awful Tuesday night turned into a sobering Wednesday morning, Kendrick Perkins had entirely too much time, too many worries, and the thoughts wouldn’t stop running.

“I kept tossing and turning,’’ said Perkins. “I couldn’t really sleep.’’

At that point, the Celtics center had no idea how badly his knee was injured, only that it was bad enough that it could keep him out of the most important game of his career.

He thought about it over and over again.

What if he hadn’t gone up for that offensive rebound in the first quarter of Game 6 against the Lakers Tuesday night?

Then he doesn’t get sandwiched between Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant. Then he doesn’t land with his right knee bent awkwardly. Then he doesn’t have to be carried off the floor by teammates.

But he did all that, and yesterday Perkins was diagnosed with tears of the medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, injuries that will keep him out of Game 7 tonight at Staples Center, when the Celtics face the Lakers as they attempt to clinch the 18th championship in team history.

“Maybe things would have been different,’’ Perkins said. “But you never know.’’

Teammate Rajon Rondo had come by the room to talk to Perkins Tuesday night.

“He was fine,’’ Rondo said. “He didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him or anything.’’

But even after Rondo left, somewhere around 3 a.m., Perkins remained sleepless.

“I was just out of there mentally,’’ Perkins said. “Just kept thinking about the situation.’’

He asked himself who would take his place, knowing coach Doc Rivers would choose between Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis, but at the same time swallowing the fact that he would no longer affect the outcome of the series.

“You can’t help your team,’’ he said. “You can’t really do nothing except watch from the side.’’

He thought about the magnitude of what he was missing, the biggest game on the biggest stage.

“You don’t get this situation a lot where you make it to the Finals, especially with a rivalry this big, Celtics-Lakers, being a part of the history and everything,’’ he said.

But it was more than just the immediacy of the game.

The injury got him thinking about how fragile everything would be from today forward.

For the past three years, he has been part of a core of players that brought about a Celtics renaissance, but after tonight’s game, it could be broken apart.

The pieces, in fact, have already started moving, with associate head coach Tom Thibodeau taking the Bulls head coaching job after the series ends.

“Tibs going to Chicago, you’ve got Ray [Allen] who’s a free agent but who’s a valuable piece of the puzzle. A lot of rumors about Doc retiring. I don’t know how true it is, but all that stuff comes into effect,’’ said Perkins.

When Perkins woke up yesterday, the knee felt worse than it did when he went to sleep. He went to trainer Ed Lacerte’s room, just to get help with the pain.

“He just gave me the news, but he didn’t really have to tell me,’’ Perkins said. “I pretty much knew on my own. I can’t even really walk straight, let alone try to run or slide your feet or something like that.’’

Perkins was told that had the injury happened in December, he would have missed the remainder of the year. But he would trade those 50 games for tonight.

“Physically,’’ he said, “I’m doing better than I am mentally.’’

Perkins had played through knee problems throughout the postseason. He suffered a strain in Game 2 of the second-round series against Cleveland, sitting out a practice but never missing a game. The knee bothered him before the start of the Eastern finals against Orlando, and he handled it the same way.

But he knew as soon as he hit the floor Tuesday night that this was different.

“I knew something was wrong,’’ Perkins said. “I didn’t know exactly what it was. I couldn’t get up on my own. I couldn’t walk. My whole leg was hurting. The back of my knee was hurting. I heard something pop. I didn’t know what it was, but it was painful.’’

Trying to grab the rebound from over the top, Bynum brought his 285 pounds down on Perkins.

“The landing had a lot to do with it, but Bynum’s weight that came down affected it more,’’ Perkins said. “If I had landed awkwardly with no weight on it, it would have been cool. His weight came down on me and it made the situation worse.’’

The what-ifs were endless.

“You think about every situation when things go bad,’’ Perkins said. “It’s just a crazy situation. Physically, I’ll get through it. But mentally, it’s hard. The only thing that will get me through this is a win.’’

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