Celtics rebounding problem as bad as it gets

Celtics rebounding problem as bad as it gets
November 21, 2012, 12:09 am
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BOSTON To see the Boston Celtics at or near the bottom of the standings when it comes to rebounds isn't all that surprising.

After all, it's not like it's anything Celtics fans haven't seen in recent years.

But what's disturbing about things right now is that as bad as the C's have been in recent years, there are signs that they are getting worse.

And that does not bode well for a Celtics team that's looking to rebound this week - literally and figuratively - against two of the top teams in the NBA, San Antonio on Wednesday followed by Oklahoma City Friday night.

Boston is currently ranked dead-last in rebounding this season, with 36.8 rebounds per game. Even more telling about their rebounding woes is their rebounding margin this season is minus-5.3 per game which is also last in the league.

And that 5.3 rebounding deficit per game marks the third straight season the rebounding gap for the C's has expanded from the previous season.

The Celtics have been given a pass of sorts when it comes to struggling to rebound, courtesy of shooting a high percentage and winning a lot of games.

This season, the C's are fifth in the league in field goal percentage which is exactly where they were last season.

But things are different right now.

The C's are just a game over .500 and while they remain a relatively high-percentage shooting team, it is clear that the problems they have had on the boards has been a contributing factor of sorts for some of their other problems.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers recognizes how rebounding-challenged his team has been this season. But when he looks around the NBA, he sees a number of the top teams also having their issues when it comes to banging the boards.

Miami is just ahead of Boston at No. 29 in rebounding this season, but the Heat rank 21st in rebounding margin.

The New York Knicks have come up on the short end of the rebounding game most of the season despite record-wise being one of the league's top teams.

They rank 26th in rebounding and 28th in rebounding margin.

"We want to be a better rebounding team; there's no doubt about that," Rivers said. "For us to win big, we have to be. Do you have to lead the league in rebounding? I don't know if that's necessarily the truth. But we have to be a better rebounding team."

Even in their struggles, rebounding margin in the past pointed out that the Celtics were a better rebounding team than their shear rebounding totals might have indicated.

Last year, Boston was the league's worst-rebounding team. But their rebounding margin ranked 28th in the league. In 2011, the C's ranked 29th in rebounding but were up to No. 19 in rebounding margin.

And in 2010 when they advanced all the way to the NBA Finals, the C's were next-to-last in rebounding but finished 25th in rebounding margin.

Even when they were a better-than-average rebounding team, their rebounding margin rank was still consistently better.

Boston was the eighth-best rebounding team in 2009, and were No. 2 that year in rebounding margin. In 2008 when they brought home banner 17, the C's were 12th in rebounds but were the third-best in terms of rebounding margin.

So what does this mean going forward for the Celtics?

Focusing on their rebounding totals is important to keep an eye on, but not necessarily vital to them being a great team. The margin of rebounds per game is a far more telling indicator where they are in terms of rebounding success.

And if the Celtics are to have the kind of season they believe they are capable of, they need to bounce back and rebound - literally and figuratively - from their current struggles on the boards.