BOSTON – Sunday’s 106-102 Game 1 loss to the Chicago Bulls was yet another tough defeat for Celtics Nation to stomach.
That’s because this loss, like many this season for Boston, was rooted heavily in the C’s inability to do what players of all sizes, shapes and colors are taught early on in their careers – rebound the basketball.
- Rebounding a major problem in Game 1 loss
- Game 2 status is Isaiah's call
- Bradley on I.T.: "We'll fight for him"
- Celtics loses despite gutsy performance from Isaiah Thomas
- WATCH: Isaiah's emotional pregame introduction
- What adjustments does Stevens have to make in Game 2?
And yet this skill continues to elude the Celtics, a shortcoming that could end their season earlier than anyone anticipated.
Sure, there’s lots of time left in their first-round series to turn things around, but here’s the problem.
This has been an issue for this group all season long.
They went into the playoffs ranked 27th in rebounding percentage while their opponent, Chicago, ranked fourth in that category.
Game 1 was a clear example of one team (Chicago) playing to its strengths while their opponent (Boston) just got played up and down the floor and on the glass.
Seeing the Celtics against one of the better rebounding teams in the NBA only raises more questions and concerns as to whether they can in fact do enough to rebound better and give themselves a chance in this series.
Let’s say Boston does rebound better going forward and finds a way to rally back and win this first-round series.
Aren’t we going to be right back at this same point again when they face Atlanta or Washington in the next round?
The Celtics need one of their bigs to breakthrough in this series and play with a level of consistency when it comes to rebounding that we haven't seen before.
Al Horford had a great stat line against the Bulls in Game 1 – 19 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
But those numbers should have been better when you consider how Robin Lopez dominated the paint all game.
Horford wasn’t defending him at all times, but Game 1 was really a night when Horford needed to shine brightly.
He was good, did a lot of things for the Celtics.
But considering the emotional weight that Isaiah Thomas was carrying around with him, someone had to step up and be more of a leader in terms of impact.
And sadly, none of the Thomas’ teammates did that.
After the loss, players talked about sticking together through these tough times.
This team is like a family, so the pain that Thomas is feeling after the death of his sister Chyna J. Thomas on Saturday, is felt by all the players.
And just like Thomas is surely struggling with keeping his emotions in check while helping the Celtics win games, his teammates to a lesser degree are in a similar fight.
Which is why Game 1 was such a disappointment because the one guy whose emotions were the most uncertain – Thomas – actually played a pretty typical Isaiah Thomas-like game.
Actually, it was better than his usual 30-plus point performances when you consider he did it on 10-for-18 shooting.
But the rest of his teammates struggled, mightily.
Certainly the Chicago Bulls deserve some of the credit for that.
Defensively, they did a good job most of the night while offering the Celtics very few opportunities to get into a flow or rhythm.
But this loss had more to do with the Celtics not providing the kind of support Thomas needed, particularly when it comes to rebounding.
He can help the Celtics in many areas in a big way, but rebounding isn’t exactly one of the 5-foot-9 guard’s strengths.
He’s a scorer, shot creator and facilitator.
For most of this season, he has done his job at a high level and as we saw in Game 1, he can step up and be more efficient when pressed.
Now, it’s on his teammates to step up and make their presence felt.
Kelly Olynyk can’t keep front-rimming wide open 3’s. Jaylen Brown can’t have miscommunications defensively that lead to uncontested dunks for opponents.
Marcus Smart has to be smarter about his shot selection.
And then there’s rebounding, one of the more basic aspects of the game that the Celtics have to get a handle on very soon.
“That’s the series,” said Jae Crowder. “If we don’t rebound, we don’t win the series. It’s simple.”