Serge Ibaka's face lit up Saturday when asked about Kendrick Perkins.

The mere mention of his fellow frontcourt enforcer got Ibaka giddy, more than any talk about his own dominant defensive performance in Game 5 against Denver or the Thunder's first-ever appearance in the Western Conference semifinals.

That's because Ibaka understands Perkins' value and how it will translate against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Thunder's second-round matchup that kicks off with Sunday's Game 1.

"He will help a lot," Ibaka said, a smile suddenly creasing his stone-cold face. "The beginning of the season, we had Nenad (Krstic), Jeff (Green), me, you know, small guys. It was very tough. But right now, we have a big body like Perk. I think it will be interesting."

Perkins drew criticism by some for his performance in the opening round against the Nuggets and center Nene. There was talk in some circles and around some water coolers that Perkins was a bust, that the Thunder botched the trade of Jeff Green.

That, of course, was crazy talk.

After a message-sending, 22-point performance in Game 1, Nene's point total dipped in each of the final four games, falling from 16 to 15 to 10 to eight. After leading the regular season in field-goal percentage at 61.5 percent, Nene shot just 47.8 percent in his five playoff games against the Thunder.

Perkins played a big part in that. Although he compiled modest averages of 5.4 points and 6.6 rebounds against Denver, Perkins' low-post defense was exactly what the Thunder was hoping to get when it acquired him in a four-player trade with Boston at the deadline. He pushed Nene off his spots. He made him work for everything he got. And he frustrated him to the point it nearly took him out of the series.

And all that came against an opponent and team that weren't considered to be a very good matchup for Perkins.

Against the Grizzlies, though, we could get an even better sense of Perkins' impact.