Poor Rebounding Plagues Boston Celtics In Loss To Bulls

Oct 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) drives on Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (8) during the second half at the United Center. Chicago won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) drives on Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (8) during the second half at the United Center. Chicago won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

On a night when All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas shot a nearly impeccable 10-for-15 from the field en route to 25 points, the Boston Celtics still failed to garner a victory, falling late in a 105-99 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bulls. While some may point to a critical traveling violation on rookie small forward Jaylen Brown with 43 seconds remaining and the team trailing by two points or Chicago shooting guard Dwyane Wade‘s Reggie Miller-esque three-point shooting performance as the culprit, one glaring fault exists.

Boston’s efforts on the glass were mediocre at best.

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Just a night after relinquishing 15 offensive rebounds to the overmatched Brooklyn Nets in a near collapse down the stretch, the Celtics were ineffective on the boards once again. Chicago simply would not fade away after missing a field goal, garnering an astounding 18 offensive rebounds which paved the way for 18 second-chance points. On the other side of the docket, the Bulls were remarkably efficient in depleting Boston’s efforts at recording offensive boards and keeping possessions alive. The Celtics managed to haul in just a trio of offensive rebounds over the course of the outing, out-rebounded by a considerable 55-36 margin as the night waned on.

Despite the fact that it is just two games into the season and would be premature to suggest that this trend will continue throughout the campaign, the numbers convey the notion that rebounding could become a consistent issue this season for Boston. Standing small with an average height of 78.2 inches, the Celtics lay claim to the shortest roster in the NBA. This will make it substantially complicated for the squad to fight evenly with divisional foes such as the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers, each of which stand in the top ten in average player height, on the glass.

Additionally, Boston’s lack of stature is magnified when those who are expected to pilot the team’s efforts on the rebounding end fall short of their expectations. This has been the case with Amir Johnson thus far, whose ineffectiveness on the boards has caused glaring consequences for the Celtics. Expected to lead the diminutive Boston bunch in rebounding based on the constant intensity he showcased on the glass in his first season with the team in 2015-16, Johnson has fallen prey to a lackadaisical style of boxing out and fighting for loose rebounds. After pulling down an impressive 19.6 percent of available defensive rebounds last season, Johnson has allowed this figure to plummet to just 10.9 percent over the first two games of this year.

As a result, Johnson began the second half of Thursday’s contest at the United Center on the bench with reserve center Tyler Zeller taking his place. In a measly 16 minutes of action, Johnson was virtually a non-factor, grabbing just a single rebound and putting up five points while posting a -11 number in the plus-minus box score. While Zeller did manage to record a positive plus-minus rating of +2, his attitude on the glass was underwhelming as well. His defensive rebounding percentage of 15.4 percent so far this season falls below the 17.6 percent mark that he enjoyed last year, playing a role in the Celtics coming down with just 67.3 percent of available defensive boards over the first two games of the season.

The fact of the matter is that if Boston wishes to contend with the major players in the Eastern Conference, role players such as Johnson and Zeller must emerge with more noticeable impacts on the glass. Newly acquired center Al Horford has matched expectations so far by grabbing 16.7 percent of available defensive boards. However, it must be noted that Horford has never been considered to be a masterful specimen on the defensive glass, having never once eclipsed an average of 7.6 defensive boards per game for a season in his career.

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Boston general manager Danny Ainge added Horford with the inclination that he would not be forced to carry the team on the boards. With head coach Brad Stevens’ likening to playing Horford at center without a traditional power forward in a small ball setting, some of the rebounding responsibility will fall on the Celtics’ backcourt options as well. When Brown receives crunch time minutes as he did in Thursday night’s defeat, playing the final 11:52 of the contest, he will need to contribute significantly on the boards, as will the likes of starters Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley moving forward.