BOSTON – Defensive rebounding was an issue Sunday night for the Boston Celtics. In fact, it was borderline offensive.
The Chicago Bulls grabbed 16 offensive boards during the first half alone, and 20 total on the night, en route to 23 total second-chance points during Game 1. Their relentless pursuit of the glass was the key to their 106-102 upset victory at TD Garden.
“We knew that was an advantage of ours going into the series,” Robin Lopez, who grabbed eight of Chicago’s offensive rebounds, said after the game. “I think everybody did a great job tonight of keying in on that aspect.”
The box score kindly agrees with Lopez’s assessment. Nine Bulls players appeared in the game, and all but two of them grabbed at least one offensive rebound. Four of the nine players grabbed multiple offensive rebounds.
“It’s something that we’ve done a pretty solid job of all season long,” said Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. “Robin, that’s always been a huge strength of his ever since he stepped into the league. I thought our other guys, our guards, went in there and got a couple for us as well.”
Chicago’s well-rounded rebounding effort deserves perspective. The Oklahoma City Thunder led the NBA in offensive rebounds per game this season with an average of 12.2. Chicago had far surpassed that total by halftime, and it nearly doubled that total on the night
Lopez was the engine of it all. The 7-footer entered the contest having averaged 4.0 offensive rebounds per game during four matchups with Boston this season. He viewed the offensive glass as an area in which he owned an advantage, and he did everything he could to exploit that advantage during Game 1.
“That’s something I’m aware of and I’m sure they are as well,” Lopez said of his consistent success on the glass against Boston. “I know when I put that kind of pressure on the rim it open us things for my teammates. That’s something I’m going to keep trying to do.”
Likewise, the Celtics will need to keep trying to prevent such efforts from altering games as this series progresses. Simply put, Boston did not match Chicago’s intensity or activity on the glass. As Brad Stevens admitted, that just won’t cut it against this Bulls team.
“You have to make hard initial contact on block-outs; you can’t just turn and look or get pushed under, because they’re going to get the ball,” Stevens said while pointing out what Boston did not do during Game 1. “They’re bigger than we are, so we have to hit first.”
In other words, the Celtics must cause the action, not be the reaction. They reacted to loose balls Sunday night, and before they knew it, it was too late.
There is a silver lining to Boston’s underwhelming performance on the glass, however, and that is the fact that they have plenty of time to flip the script. The C’s did not allow Chicago to grab a single offensive rebound during the final quarter, and that may trigger a turnaround during Tuesday night’s Game 2.
Al Horford said after the game that sometimes a team can “learn more from a loss than a win.” If the Celtics learned anything from their defeat Sunday night, it’s that they aren’t going to keep Chicago off the offensive glass by putting forth minimal effort.
Come Game 2, and beyond, the Celtics need to be exactly what the Bulls were during Game 1: the aggressor on the glass.