CLEVELAND – The Boston Celtics will be looking to rebound, literally and figuratively, on Tuesday when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of their best-of-seven first round playoff series.
Despite being the NBA’s 12th-best rebounding team at 52.4 per game, the Celtics were minus-12 on the boards in their 113-100 Game 1 loss to the Cavs on Sunday.
And Boston’s rebounding struggles weren’t just limited to the big men, either.
Cleveland’s three primary guards – Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert – had a total of 13 rebounds.
Boston’s perimeter trio of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas tallied nine rebounds with 5-foot-9 Thomas - the smallest guy on the floor - grabbing five boards by himself.
While Cleveland’s 52.0 rebounds per game this season ranked 16th in the league, a more telling statistic was that they were limiting opponents to just 48.9 rebounds per game.
On Sunday, Boston had just 34 boards for the game.
The struggles Boston had on the boards were exaggerated by the challenge that Cleveland presents to most opponents.
“You have to do a great job with your guards in rotating,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “You’re going to be in some rotations with their level of talent on the first shot. We have to be great at it, not only cleaning up rebounds but also rotating and blocking out.”
That’s where the guards come into play.
A better job on Boston’s part in limiting Cleveland’s rebounding success can only enhance their chances of evening up this series with a win on Tuesday which should cut into the 18-11 advantage the Cavs enjoyed on second-chance points.
“We gotta help no matter what,” Thomas said. “How we’re playing, we’re in rotations all the time. As guards we have to be in there just like they help us out containing guards.”
Knowing what has to be done is one thing. But actually doing it, now that’s another matter entirely.