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It’s not time to panic yet, but we’re not too far away from that time, either.

Previously, we noted how the Boston Celtics’ strategy to compensate for its lack of rebounding big men - “rebounding by committee” (hereafter, RBC) - wasn’t working, and last night was just more fuel to the fire. In a nutshell, the idea has been that big men will box out other bigs while guards and wings will chase down whatever the bigs can’t mop up.

While it sounds like a good idea in theory, it has been a disaster in practice.


Isaiah Thomas rightfully called out his team’s effort level, as did Coach Brad Stevens. Sportswriters and analysts rightfully noted the impact of injuries - two of Boston’s best rebounders are still out (Al Horford, Jae Crowder), and two more key players are just returning to action (Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart).


Neither of these things are the main issue.

To be sure, both or either being solved will go a long way towards fixing these issues, as will good team defense. The problem is team defense requires players be available to follow their assignment, close out on shooters, and be available to help on defense when needed.


When bigs are boxing out near the basket, they can’t do much else besides gun for a close rebound. When guards and wings are scrambling for loose balls, they have no time to recover if a player on the opposing team gets the rebound. This often places them far from their assignment, and leaves passing and cutting lanes wide open for a quick pick and roll, and even more often, makes the rebounder either wide open as his competitor for the board hurtles past him, or able to nab a quick assist to the man they are no longer covering.

The proof?


A lack of effort, nor a lack of personnel will turn a top-five defense into a near-last defense. More importantly, on nights the Celts were destroyed on the boards, they also managed to turn several of the worst teams in the league at shooting the three into lethal sharpshooting teams with three-point percentages near or at the top of the league if it were a season average (for example, the Wizards were shooting under .316 from deep before facing Boston, while shooting an insane 47.6% last night; check out the last two breakdowns of RBC's issues here and here for more examples).

Shockingly (OK, not really), all of these teams' shooting came back to earth playing other squads.

A good bill of health and a better buy-in will help, to be sure. But it is not the answer - either Boston needs to find a beast on the boards on its own roster (which is getting less likely by the quarter), or it needs to make a trade to address this issue.

We’re running out of time.




Thomas photo via Brian Babineau/NBAE images
Data from www.basketballreference.com
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 11/10/2016 11:21:00 AM Edit
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