Outrebounding opponents a winning formula for Celtics
Analytics have made the game of basketball appear very complex, but in reality it is not that complicated. Score more points than your opponent, and you win. Of course, to score more points your team has to play sound defense to minimize what goes up on the board for the opposition. And your team needs to increase the number of possessions, and one of the best ways to do that is to get the damn ball when he comes off the rim or backboard.
Bill Russell, one of the NBA's greatest all-time rebounders had two simple tips on grabbing boards. The first was that most rebounds are taken below the level of the rim, meaning that even smaller guys (Terry Rozier, Avery Bradley) can get into the action. His second idea was that most shots are taken at an angle, either large or small, from the rim and the rebound will usually come off the opposite side of the basket. Meaning, if a shot is taken to the right of the rim, it will usually come off to the left. Simple stuff, but in the NBA rebounding means physical battles of boxing out and fighting for position. Pretty exhausting.
The current Celtics team is ranked 13th in boards per game at 44.0. They have played 40 games thus far and stand at 40-10. In the 10 losses, they have been outrebounded in nine of them and tied in boards for the 10th.
The Celtics improve to 20-0 this season when outrebounding their opponent
Looking at the stats in another way, they win each and every game in which they outrebound the opponent. It is not the only formula for success. There are nine games where Boston failed to do the work on the boards and still found a way to win, but most of the rebounding margins were fairly small. But the numbers strongly point to one point. Box out - get position - hold it - snag the ball - maintain control - keep doing it and win the game.
Al Horford is the Celtics top board man at 7.9 per game. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris follow in the 5-6 range. The two best rebounders on a per-minute basis are Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis. To me, Theis seems like a natural at snagging boards and there are few bigs in the NBA that can move Baynes out of the way.
Marcus Morris is back with the team and seemingly healthy, and the guy can rip downs boards. He will make a positive difference in every facet of the game if he remains injury-free. Terry Rozier has increased his boarding rate over the last four games to the 5-6 range with the front-court guys. If the Celtics can increase their average rebounds to the upper-forties or low-fifties, their win rate should rise above the current 75%. That would be great to see.
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Theis photo via Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Baynes photo via Chuck Burton/AP Photo