Al Horford faced his toughest big man test of the season to date in Monday’s contest against the Pistons, and he was not able to rise to the occasion.
His rebounding rate has risen from 6.8 per game in 2016-17 to 8.2 per game this season while his shooting percentages have leaped as well. Horford is making 53.3 percent of his attempts from the field as opposed to last season’s 47.3 percent while hitting 43.1 percent of his three-point attempts, a vast improvement from his 35.5 percent struggle-fest from beyond the arc in 2016-17.
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After being dominated on the glass for much of last season, Boston needed Horford to increase his presence on the boards in order to vault themselves forward into undeniable NBA Finals contention. Horford has responded to his team’s need, upping his defensive rebound percentage from 18.6 percent to 22.9 percent. However, his defensive rebound rate pales in comparison to the monstrous 36.3 percent rate that Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond has gobbled up defensive rebounds to this season.
Horford received his first chance of the season to challenge Drummond’s 15.6 rebounds-per-game throne, and the results were disappointing for Celtics fans.
Drummond continued his dominance on the glass, garnering 22 rebounds in addition to 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. With the performance, he became the first visiting player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967 to come into Boston and put up 25 points, 20 rebounds and five assists.
The UConn product was the favorite to grab the rebound seemingly every time a shot went up. He garnered an incredible 65.1 percent defensive rebound percentage and a total rebound percentage of 34.9 percent.
Horford’s newfound rebounding prowess was nowhere to be seen. He garnered just five rebounds on the night while his defensive rebound percentage was just 18.9 percent and his total rebound percentage was an abysmal 9.4 percent. Backup center Aron Baynes picked up some of the slack against his former Detroit teammates with a defensive rebound percentage of 38.8 percent, but it was not enough to stop the monstrous effort by Drummond.
Especially on nights where backcourt staples such as Marcus Smart (three rebounds) and Terry Rozier (no rebounds) struggle to crash the glass, Horford will need to be there to anchor the Celtics rebounding presence. Recently, he has been hard to locate on the boards.
After garnering ten rebounds for the second consecutive game in Boston’s thrilling victory over the Golden State Warriors on November 16, Horford retrieved just four boards in almost 33 minutes in his former city two nights later as the Celtics defeated the Hawks. That dip in rebounding has remained consistent over the team’s last five games.
Horford has failed to garner more than seven rebounds in each of the Celtics most recent five outings, combining for 13 rebounds in his last three games with four-board performances in wins over the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers this past weekend.
The Pistons have earned the reputation as a contender for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference with their stellar play over the first month-and-a-half of the season, and could be a team that the Celtics will need to get around in the second round of the playoffs.
If these teams do meet in a seven-game series, rebounding will play a massive factor, and Horford will need to up the ante.