Beyond The Numbers: C's need to get better on the boards in second quarter

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CHICAGO -- Following Boston's Game 3 win on Friday against the Chicago Bulls, Brad Stevens was pleased with his team's performance but cautious about feeling too good.
 
"Gotta play better in Game 4," Stevens said at the time.
 
It's Coach Speak 101 to talk about the need to improve following a victory in the playoffs.
 
But Stevens is spot-on when he talks about his team needing to make on-the-fly improvements if it is to prevail again tonight in Game 4.
 
There are many areas that have been problematic for the Celtics in this series, but none as consistently worrisome as the way they've struggled in the second quarter in all three playoff games.
 
In the second quarter the Celtics have been outscored 74-49, or by 8.3 points per game.
 
Stevens recognized this going into Game 3, which was, in part, why Isaiah Thomas was subbed out after about six or so minutes in the first quarter, and returned to play all but 24 seconds of the second.
 
Good strategy, right?
 
In theory, it made a lot of sense. Thomas is your best scorer. Points have been harder to come by in the second quarter. Put Thomas on the floor in the second and . . . point-a-palooza right?
 
Nope.
 
In fact, Boston actually had its worst second quarter of the series in Game 3.
 
The Celtics shot just 22.7 percent from the field (5-for-22) in the second quarter after having shot 34.8 and 35.0 percent, respectively, in the second quarters of Games 1 and 2.
 
But Boston struggling to score in the second quarter isn't unusual.
 
During the regular season, the Celtics ranked among the NBA's top-scoring teams in the first (12th), third (7th) and fourth (1st) quarters of games.
 
But in the second, they were in the bottom 10 (23rd) with a 25.7 points-per-game scoring average.
 
The knee-jerk reaction is to put the blame on the bench players, who typically see most of their playing time in the second quarter. But as we saw in Game 3, with Thomas out there for most of the second, problems still arise before halftime.
 
What's at the heart of their second-quarter struggles?
 
The same thing that has been an issue for Boston all season: Rebounding.
 
It's been troubling for Boston all season, but those struggles have become magnified in the second quarter of this series.
 
For the series, Boston has been outrebounded by 12.3 boards per game. And with many of those rebounds being on the offensive end, it forces the Celtics' defense to play longer than it should due to Chicago getting multiple cracks at scoring. And the Bulls aren't giving up many offensive boards, which puts an even greater premium on Boston making shots since the likelihood of getting a second or third chance at scoring is unlikely.
 
And the massive rebounding advantage has centered around Chicago's ability to dominate the boards in the second quarter.
 
If you take away the rebounding numbers in the second quarter of this series, the Celtics are grabbing just 4.3 less rebounds per game than the Bulls, which is a palatable gap for Boston to have and still be successful.
 
So an improved effort on the glass in the second quarter is exactly what the Celtics to rid themselves of what has been a first-rate problem thus far in this series.

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