Chris Forsberg

Checking the film on Celtics' rebounding woes vs. Hawks

How much of the blame was on Boston's players versus plain old bad luck?

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Fret about late-game offense all you want — and we certainly didn’t love Boston’s play call at the end of regulation — but the story of Thursday’s game against the Hawks was the 17 offensive rebounds that the hosts turned into 28 second-chance points as the Celtics dropped two games in Atlanta over the span of four days.

Boston’s rebounding woes included allowing a painful 10 second-chance points in the fourth quarter, as the well-rested Celtics simply could not close out a Hawks team playing its third game in four nights, including the second night of a back-to-back.

So what went wrong? How did the Celtics get burned again after giving up 15 offensive rebounds (albeit for only 18 second-chance points) in a loss to Atlanta on Monday night? It seems impossible that Boston could get outworked and outhustled by the Hawks given the rest situation.

So let’s go to the film and look for notable missteps over a not-so-banner 17 rebounds given up: 

1. An airballed Dejounte Murray 3-point attempt lands near Clint Capela, who promptly dribbles it off his foot and out of bounds. It was the only offensive rebound the Celtics gave up over the first 12 minutes, an encouraging start after Monday night's woes. 

Fault: Bad luck. Result: No points.

2. Payton Pritchard doesn’t get a body on Bogdan Bogdanovic, who pursues his leaning 3 and gives Atlanta the first of eight (EIGHT!) second-quarter offensive rebounds. Bogdanvoic ultimately loses the ball out of bounds while trying to go up with a put-back. 

Fault: Pritchard. Result: No points.

3. After helping to deny a baseline drive, Kristaps Porzingis finds Capela but never quite gets a body on him. The rebounds springs far enough for Capela to haul it in and the Hawks turn it into an immediate kick-out 3.

Fault: Porzingis. Result: 3 points.

4. Murray airballs a layup attempt with Derrick White scrambling to contest a layup. Porzingis is knocked backwards by the screener, Capela, who muscles his way in front and pursues the ball for an easy putback.

Fault: Porzingis. Result: 2 points.

5. Porzingis eats a shoulder from Capela near the basket but manages to block his attempt at the rim. Capela patiently resets and gets a little left-handed hook to fall over Porzingis after working his way back into the paint. Good initial defense generated the block, but Porzingis has to fight to keep Capela out of the paint on the second attempt.

Fault: Bad luck. Result: 2 points.

6. Bogdanovic blows past Tatum on the perimeter forcing Porzingis to scramble with help. No one puts a body on Capela, who misses the initial tip …

7. … but keeps the possession alive long enough for Bogdanovic to swoop in and deliver a putback off the glass.

Fault: Tatum. Result: 2 points. 

8. Bogdanovic pulls up for a transition 3 and Derrick White gets caught ball-watching instead of putting a body on Murray, who tips the ball to Capela as the Hawks generate their fifth-second chance basket of the second quarter.

Fault: White. Result: 2 points.

9. The normally laser-focused White gets caught ball-watching again as Jrue Holiday scrambles off a screen to force a Murray contested midrange pull-up. White’s assignment, Vit Krejci, swoops all the way in from beyond the 3-point arc for an uncontested putback.

Final second-quarter tally for the Hawks: eight offensive rebounds, 13 second-chance points.

Fault: White. Result: 2 points.

10. The Hawks get in transition early in the third quarter and White is forced to battle Capela under the basket. Despite both Tatum and Porzingis lingering nearby, Capela corrals the long rebound and the Hawks ultimately turned it into a 3-pointer from De’Andre Hunter. With White fighting Capela, either Tatum or Porzingis has to get the ball in that situation.

Fault: Tatum and Porzingis. Result: 3 points.

11. Porzingis blocks a Wesley Matthews 3-point attempt. Matthews gets his own rebound but the Celtics prevent second-chance points.

Fault: Bad luck. Result: 0 points.

12. Murray misses a straightaway 3, and while Porzingis is able to get his body on a charging Bruno Fernando, he gets muscled out of the way as Fernando steps between Porzingis and Luke Kornet for the loose ball. Porzingis has to be stronger in that moment. Hunter gets a second-chance layup on the reset.

Fault: Porzingis. Result: 2 points.

13. Murray misses a pull-up 3 from the left wing and Tatum loses track of Matthews in the right corner, allowing him to race in and outleap Pritchard to tap the ball back out. Murray immediately hits a floater off the kick-out.

Fault: Tatum. Result: 2 points.

14. The Hawks have two weakside crashers, both of whom end up with a shot at the rebound. It’s Holiday who completely loses track of Hunter as he gets a too-easy rebound and putback while Holiday watches it all unfold at the free-throw line.

Fault: Holiday. Result: 2 points.

15. With the Celtics up two and less than three minutes to play, Holiday elects to pursue the rebound rather than putting a body on Hunter. A Murray missed 3 springs far enough off the rim to allow both Hunter and Krejci to tap the ball back out to Bogdanovic, who soon delivers a stepback 3 that puts the Hawks out front.

Fault: Holiday. Result: 3 points.

16. The Celtics are up three with 33 seconds to go when Porzingis gets switched onto Murray, but Murray settles for a pull-up 3. White is fighting Hunter on the baseline but — in a repeating pattern — the rebound on Murray’s missed 3 fires long enough for Hunter to get the rebound over the top of a leaping White. The ball immediately finds Bogdanovic for the game-tying 3.

Ten of Atlanta’s 23 fourth-quarter points came off second-chance opportunities. 

Fault: Bad luck. Result: 3 points.

17. A Holiday strip creates a loose ball that turns the possession into a scramble. Matthews, with momentum towards the basket, misses a contested leaner but manages to get his own rebound with his momentum (all while Holiday is doing his best to hold off Capela). White scrambles to force a jump ball off the Hawks’ only offensive rebound of the overtime.

Fault: Bad luck. Result: 0 points.

You can chalk up roughly a third of Atlanta’s offensive rebounds to bad luck, and in some instances, it was good defense with the Hawks simply getting rebounds off blocked shots.

But the tape shows that Boston players too often got caught either ball-watching or simply got outworked and outmuscled for the ball. 

Knowing how good the Hawks are at crashing the glass, and after witnessing it firsthand on Monday night, it’s inexcusable that the Celtics weren’t more alert on the glass.

Those rebounding woes highlight a pattern of the Celtics simply not being as engaged on the defensive end lately. Both Boston’s rebound rate and defensive rating have slipped in recent weeks and these two games in Atlanta likely don’t boil down to late-game execution if Boston is better on the glass and narrows the shot margin

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