The Celtics are headed back to Boston for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, and they've got a whole host of question marks surrounding them. But early Thursday afternoon, the biggest question on everyone's minds was put to bed.
Kendrick Perkins was relieved Thursday to hear that one of his two technical fouls from Wednesday night's Game 5 in Orlando had been rescinded, and the Boston center will be eligible to play Friday night at TD Garden.
Perkins, who was ejected from Game 5 with 36 seconds left in the second quarter with two technicals, had reached the NBA's limit of seven techs in a single postseason, earning him an automatic suspension. But both of the calls in Wednesday night's game were controversial ones, leaving a window open for the calls to be revoked and Perkins to be cleared to play. The second one was indeed revoked on Thursday.
The first whistle, called a double tech on Perkins and Orlando center Marcin Gortat with 2:15 left in the second, came after Perk threw an elbow and Gortat retaliated by slapping the ball out of Perk's hands. Upon further review, though, the elbow appeared to be inadvertent, and a technical foul seemed like a steep penalty.
The second tech came minutes later as Perkins loudly disputed a foul called by official Eddie Rush. Perkins complained about the call briefly, then walked away. It didn't appear that he did much to antagonize Rush, but the T was called nonetheless.
Word was unanimous in the Celtics' locker room after the game that neither call was warranted.
It was unlikely, though, that the NBA would rescind both calls, as that would entail a massive admission of its referees' incompetence in a crucial playoff game. So it's no surprise that word came on Thursday that only one call was reversed.
That means that Perkins is still treading on thin ice. With six technicals under his belt in this postseason and the limit of seven still on the horizon, he's got to be careful.
Perkins will play in Game 6, but there will no doubt be a bull's-eye on his back. The Magic will do everything they can to get under his skin, provoking him in the hopes of drawing tech No. 7. Perkins will have to be the bigger man — and that's never easy when the big man opposing you is Dwight Howard.
If the Magic can needle Perk into another tech and steal Game 6 in Boston, you're looking at a Game 7 back in Orlando, and the Celtics with no momentum and no starting center.
If the Celtics win but Perk is T'd up, we could see a Game 1 of the NBA Finals on the road, and the possibility of staring down the twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, sans Perkins.
Neither scenario sounds appetizing.
The Celtics caught a break Thursday with Perkins' being cleared to play, but they've got to cherish Perkins' presence. They can't let it slip away. One more slip-up, and the league might not be there to bail them out again.