Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's rebounding numbers ‘certainly concerning'


BOSTON – What a season this is shaping up to be for Avery Bradley.

Not only is he scoring at a career-high pace, but he's also Boston's top rebounder with more than eight rebounds per game.

The idea of having the best rebounder on an NBA team being just 6-foot-2, is a bit surprising. 

“I’m not as concerned that a guard is leading us in rebounding,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I’m concerned we’re 30th in rebounding.”

Boston’s poor rebounding could be an issue tonight against the Dallas Mavericks who are a bad rebounding team as well. 

The Mavericks are ranked 23rd in rebounding percentage (.482) compared to a Celtics squad that’s ranked 29th in the same category with a .469 rebounding percentage.

Rebounding has been an issue for the Celtics throughout Stevens' three-plus seasons as Boston’s head coach, evident by them finishing no better than 15th in the NBA in rebounding percentage (.501) which came during his rookie season.

But the struggles at the start of this season differ from the past with two of the team’s top frontcourt players – Al Horford (concussion) and Jae Crowder (ankle) – having already missed seven and six games, respectively. 

Stevens has already ruled Crowder out for tonight’s game while Horford remains questionable at best. 

“I’ve tried to look at everything objectively especially while we’re short-handed,” said Stevens, alluding to having played a sizable chunk of games without Kelly Olynyk (offseason shoulder surgery) and Marcus Smart (ankle) as well. 

While the Celtics defensively aren’t where Stevens wants them to be, there has been noticeable improvement the last three games. 

But rebounding? 

That’s another story. 

“It’s been a concern of ours all the way through,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to have guys block out; perimeter guys are going to have to rebound so that doesn’t bother me that a perimeter guy is leading us. But the overall rebounding numbers are certainly concerning.”

If you’re going solely by box scores you’ll see that the Celtics’ big men are not rebounding as well as a lot of the perimeter players.

In 10 games this season, 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley or 5-9 Isaiah Thomas has led or shared the team in lead in rebounds seven times. 

Bradley’s rebounding has been particularly impressive with his team-high 8.3 per game. If he can continue rebounding the ball so well, Bradley would become the first guard in franchise history to average eight or more rebounds per game. 

“Avery is doing a great job of pursuing the ball,” Stevens pointed out and then added, “But I think Avery would be the first to tell you that the reason why he’s grabbing those rebounds is because bigs are blocking out; and there’s an opening to grab the rebound. Amir (Johnson) and Kelly (Olynyk) and Tyler (Zeller) or Jonas (Jerebko) or Jordan (Mickey) aren’t going to get credit for any of those rebounds. But they’re the ones that are clearing the space so the guards can fly in there and get them. That’s not an easy thing to do. We have to get better at that, and we have to get more consistent just finishing each play. There’s going to be times where we’re all flying around and we don’t come up with the ball. We just have to make those the rebounds we give up, not the ones where we miss a block out, not the ones that we choose to not pursue for whatever reason.”

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