WALTHAM — Kendrick Perkins never comes off as warm and fuzzy.
With his ever-present snarl, his constant berating of officials and his refusal to back down from anyone, he's one of the NBA's true (and few) tough guys.
To slow down muscle-bound skywalker Dwight Howard, you need an enforcer type.
Atlanta didn't have one and he put on a show in a four-game sweep, averaging 21.1 points, grabbing 13.3 rebounds and shooting an NBA playoff record .844 from the floor.
It's safe to say that mark won't be in jeopardy any time soon. Certainly not against the Celtics, who hope to take a 3-0 lead in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference final series tomorrow (8:30 p.m., TD Garden).
The Celtics went from potential pushovers to potential champions when they started playing Celtic defense, slicing their field goal percentage allowed from .451 (9th in the league) to .437 in the poseason.
Although he can be a liability on offense, Perkins always plays Celtic defense.
"Kryptonite Kendrick'' opened America's eyes by completing shutting down the self-proclaimed Superman in Game 1 (13 points, 3-of-10 shooting, 7 turnovers) but the former slam dunk champ rebounded in Game 2 (30 points, 9-of-13 shooting).
Game 2 still sticks in Perkins' craw. When asked if he took it personally, he didn't hesitate.
"Yes, I'm a defender,'' he said at yesterday's practice.
One of the league's best, although he still doesn't get credit for it. He was just 21st in the All-NBA defensive team voting, behind such gimpy dinosaurs as Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin.
To keep Howard in check, you have to pay the price.
"It will be physical all series,'' said Perkins. "You can't let him set up shop where he wants to set up shop. You have to take him out of his comfort zone.''