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How do the Boston Celtics go from anticipated top-five defense in the league to 29th in practice in just two weeks?

Have your guards do the bulk of the rebounding.

Previously, we broke down what may be a significant problem with Boston's defense, which, in a nutshell, is exactly what comes of such a "rebounding by committee" approach. On paper, having the big men box out so the guards can pull down loose boards seems like it might be a sneaky way to compensate for having a squad full of poor-rebounding big men.

On paper.


In practice, however, it pulls guards away from their assignment as they go after loose balls, and, as we saw last night, opens slashing and passing lanes for even mediocre guards to score, while making team and individual perimeter defense suffer, as the dud that was the first matchup with the Chicago Bulls made all too clear.

It also seems to be making it easier for opposing bigs to score, with players like the Bull's Taj Gibson and Denver Nuggets' Kenneth Faried putting up notably higher point totals than in other games this season. This is especially noteworthy looking at Gibson, because of the fact Boston has encountered him twice this year already, with a different result each time. The 18- point Gibson performance? Guards and wings out-rebound bigs 15-8. The 8-point Gibson outing? a near-split with guards and wings rebounding 12 to the big men's 10.


When Boston's power forwards and centers were handily out-rebounded by their guards and wings over the last five games, they lost games they had no business losing, and in the case of last night's tilt with the Denver Nuggets, they lost badly. In our last dive into the Celt's defensive woes, we noted how perimeter shooting improves for teams when the guards do the rebounding, and the Nuggets are no exception - they put up a staggering 47.8% from deep against Boston versus a season average .338, which should be noted was lower before shooting the lights out in TD Garden.


We have already noted some optimal targets to address this serious weakness in the last go-round putting the recent defensive slump under the microscope, but it may quickly become a big enough issue to have to abandon hopes for maximum summer cap flexibility for free agency if the free fall doesn't reverse course quickly, or a strong rebounder on a one-year deal become available shortly. A lengthy losing streak in a weak chunk of the schedule might all but negate the utility of such flexibility with free agency targets, and threaten the strength of what has been, until this week, a model rebuild.

Whether Brad Stevens finds a way to get the bigs we have to mop up defensive boards at a higher rate, or a move is made to get the same results, something's got to give.

There's just too much at stake.




Bradley photo via AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Data via www.basketballreference.com
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 11/07/2016 11:56:00 AM Edit
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