Beyond the numbers: How big of an issue is Celtics' rebounding?

Beyond the numbers: How big of an issue is Celtics' rebounding?

LOS ANGELES – As the trade deadline came and went, Celtics Nation had reason to be concerned that the team’s greatest weakness – rebounding – was left unchanged.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, knew this was an area of concern going forward, but felt the team’s best days as a rebounding crew were ahead of them.

And lately, rebounding has not been as big an issue for the Celtics as it was the first few months of the season.

In fact, the Celtics come into tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers having won the battle on the boards three consecutive games – a first for Boston this season.

Boston’s rebounding percentage has indeed been on the rise in comparison to how they have fared this season.

In the last five games, Boston’s rebounding percentage has been .515 which ranks 10th in the NBA during that span.

For the season, they are 27th with a rebounding percentage of .482.

But the area of rebounding growth they’ve made the greatest strides in comes on the defensive side of things.

The Celtics have been one of the NBA’s worst defensive rebounding teams, which has allowed teams to have far too many second and third-shot opportunities.

But in the last five games, defensive rebounding has actually been a strength of the Celtics.

In that span, the Celtics rank sixth in the league with a .782 defensive rebounding percentage compared to just .751 on the season which ranks 29th in the league.

One of the more obvious reasons for the improved rebounding numbers is the fact that Boston’s big men – Amir Johnson and Al Horford, specifically – have had stronger games rebounding the ball lately.

Both still have their Casper the Friendly Ghost moments when they completely disappear on the glass.

But for the most part, recent games have shown them to be far more impactful in attack the glass at both ends of the floor.

This season, Johnson is averaging 4.6 rebounds with a rebounding percentage of .132.

In Boston’s last five games, Johnson’s rebounding percentage is up to .148 and his overall rebounding average has increased to 5.4 per game.

As for Horford, he’s averaging a career-low 6.6 rebounds per game with a rebounding percentage of .115.

But in Boston’s last five games, Horford’s rebounding percentage is up to .120 while his overall rebounding average has increased to 7.3 per game.

Neither one of them has transformed into putting up Ben Wallace-like rebounding numbers or anything like that. But for a team that shoots as much as they do from the perimeter, even the slightest increase in terms of rebounding the basketball is a huge plus in terms of improving their chances at winning.

And now that Avery Bradley (Achilles) is back (sort of), Boston’s ability to steadily improve as a team rebounding the ball should only get better which they hope will be enough to either surge past Cleveland in the standings for the top spot in the East, or stand pat in their current position as the Eastern Conference’s number two team.

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum had another strong performance for the Boston Celtics, doing so against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a player Tatum has acknowledged on more than one occasion he has looked up to. 

That admiration didn’t get in the way of Tatum delivering a big-time performance in helping Boston rally from six points down with 12.7 seconds to play, to knock off the Thunder 100-99.

Tatum tallied a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. And doing so at 20 years and 17 days old, Tatum became the youngest player in franchise history to tally at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.

“It feels good,” Tatum said when asked about his first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound game in the NBA. “But honestly, I’m just glad we won. That was a big win against a great team and it was fun playing out there today.”

Impacting the game on multiple levels offensively along with being a defensive and rebounding force are qualities often associated with George who became familiar with Tatum prior to last June’s NBA draft which is when the Celtics selected him with the third overall pick. 

“I reached out to him before he was coming into this draft and I got to talk to him,” said George, who had 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds against the Celtics. “It’s an honor when you see young talent. I‘ve been inspired by many in this league so it’s great to inspire the younger generation in this league.”

And while Tatum may be young, he continues to prove himself up for whatever challenges await him. 

“We are going to keep throwing to the wolves and keep going to him in those moments,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston closed out the game with an 8-1 spurt in the final 24.7 seconds, with Tatum either scoring or assisting on five of those points which includes assistant on Marcus Morris’ game-winner.

Tatum’s composure down the stretch comes from being influenced by many, including George who considers it “an honor” that Tatum holds him in high regard. 

“At the end of the day, us veteran guys want the younger guys to take the game further and advance much farther than what I was,” George said. “There’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson (Tatum) that are probably already looking up to Jayson (Tatum).”


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

1:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss Kyrie Irving getting a second opinion on his injured knee and what the Kyrie’s options are for the remainder of the season.

5:53 - Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine break down the Celtics stunning last second comeback win over the Thunder with multiple key players sitting out.

10:27 - Tom Curran and Jerod Mayo stop by Early Edition to play a game of Fill in the Blank that involves Gronkowski’s contract and the Patriots best offseason acquisition.