BOSTON – When the Boston Celtics’ season ended a year ago in the Eastern Conference finals to Cleveland, changes had to be made.
Boston underwent a major overhaul, bringing back just four players from last season’s team. There was star power added, but one of the more not-so-subtle changes was the Celtics upgrading their overall rebounding prowess which will be a factor in Game 1 of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup against Cleveland which begins today.
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During the regular season, Boston was 14th in rebounding percentage (.503) compared to being 27th a year ago with a rebounding percentage of just .485.
In the playoffs, it has been a mixed bag of sorts for Boston whose rebounding percentage stands at .497 which ranks ninth among the 16 teams that made it to the playoffs.
Although Cleveland won two of the three regular-season meetings, Boston averaged more rebounds per game (47.0 versus 46.3) and had a higher rebounding percentage (.504 versus .496).
Boston’s improved rebounding compared to a year ago really stands out when the Celtics go with a smaller lineup which as Brad Stevens pointed out, isn’t quite as small as it used to be.
“One of the things that when we went small in the past, we were pretty small,” Stevens said. “Now we’re pretty big. But still, you have to do a great job of keeping the ball in front of you, making everything as difficult as possible and getting into their bodies.”
This is especially true on the offensive glass against a Cavs team that features Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, two of the best when it comes to creating second-chance scoring opportunities.
“The offensive rebound is one of many concerns as you get ready to play these guys,” Stevens said.
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals in a rematch of last year’s Conference finals pitting the No. 2 seeded Boston Celtics against 4th seeded Cleveland.
For Boston, converting turnovers into points has been a major factor in the team’s postseason run thus far. When turnovers have generated at least 10 points for Boston, the Celtics are 8-1 in the postseason. But when they have been limited to single digits in points off turnovers, Boston is 0-3.
DELIVERING IN THE CLUTCH
No two teams have consistently come up big when the game matters, more than the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston leads all playoff teams in points scored (85) in the clutch – the last five minutes of a game with five or fewer points separating the two teams – while the Cavaliers are second with 67. But defensively, the Cavs have limited playoff foes to just 36 clutch points, tops among playoff teams, while Boston’s opponents have scored a total of 82 clutch points.
ANOTHER TATUM MILESTONE COMING UP
The 20-year-old Tatum has scored 226 points in the playoffs thus far, needing just four points to set a new franchise record for the most points scored by a rookie in the postseason. The current franchise record holder is NBC Sports Boston analyst and two-time Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn who scored 229.
You can’t blame Philadelphia in the last series for allowing Aron Baynes so many good looks initially from the corners on 3-point shots considering he had not been much of a threat during the regular season. That was not the case in the playoffs where Baynes made eight 3-pointers from the corners in the Philly series, which was one more than the Sixers as a team made in the entire five-game series from the corners.
These two teams don’t have a longstanding history of playoff battles, although you wouldn’t know that by how things have played out recently. This will be the eighth time these two have met in the postseason, but the third time in the last four seasons. In the previous seven matchups, Boston has a 4-3 series record. But of those three series losses, two came under current head coach Brad Stevens (2015 first round; 2017 Conference finals) whose postseason record against the Cavs is 1-8.