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BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were tired of hearing about their lack of rebounding through the first 10 games of the season, so Wednesday night they put forth their best effort to correct the issue.
Prior to its matchup with the Dallas Mavericks, Boston possessed the second-worst rebounding differential in the league. The C’s completely flipped the switch against Dallas, however, by producing their largest single-game rebounding advantage in more than two years.
Boston out-rebounded the Mavs 53-32 during Wednesday's 90-83 win, which marked the team's greatest advantage on the boards since Nov. 5, 2014 when it produced a massive plus-31 on the glass against the Toronto Raptors.
Last week, the Celtics found themselves ranked dead-last in the league in rebounding differential, averaging 8.0 less rebounds per game than their opponent.
So what did they do differently Wednesday night?
“We were boxing out,” answered Avery Bradley. “We were attacking the glass as a team.
“Guys like Jonas (Jerebko), Amir (Johnson) was boxing out, Kelly (Olynyk) was attacking the glass, Terry Rozier does every single night, Marcus Smart... We just did a great job as a team getting rebounds, and that’s what we need to do every single night.”
One major name that Bradley left off his lengthy list of top rebounders was his own. The seventh-year guard corralled a career-high 13 boards Wednesday night, nine of which he tallied by halftime. Prior to this season, he had collected nine rebounds during an entire game just three times.
Bradley was never known for his rebounding, as he entered this season with a career average of 2.6 rebounds per game. But he has been Boston’s brightest spot on the boards this season, boasting an average of 8.7 RPG through 11 contests.
“I think he’s made it a point of emphasis to just get [in] there,” Isaiah Thomas said of Bradley’s improvement on the glass. “He’s very athletic. He’s a strong guard. Most of the time on his rebounds he’s really going to get (it), they’re not just falling in his hands, and that says a lot about who he is as a player.”
Several of Boston’s guards had that ‘go-get-it’ mentality on the glass Wednesday night. Bradley, Smart, Thomas and Rozier combined for 27 rebounds, which is an unusual feat for a group of exterior players. Meanwhile, Dallas’ five guards combined for 12 rebounds on the night – one shy of Bradley’s individual total.
“We just wanted it,” Smart said of Boston’s guard-dominant effort on the glass. “We talked amongst each other that we needed to do a better job – the guards – of coming in and helping our bigs.”
Wednesday night, they did just that: The bigs were able to consistently box out the opposition, which then cleared a path for the guards to run in and snag the rock off the glass.
“I think that that is exactly what we’re trying to accomplish,” said coach Brad Stevens, “because none of our bigs have been career double-figure rebounders.
“(We have) good, solid interior players that do a lot of great things, but we’re asking Amir to guard up a spot most of the game – he’s guarded 4s mostly. And so for him to get his guy off has got to be enough, and then somebody else has to go get the ball.”
The Celtics struggled with that concept during the first couple of weeks of the season, but they’ve begun to show some improvement on the boards lately.
Prior to Boston’s rebounding outburst Wednesday night, it had actually possessed a plus-1 rebounding margin over its last three games. Now the C’s can say they have a plus-22 advantage on the glass over their last four contests.
“I’m not ready to anoint us the greatest rebounding team in the world yet,” Stevens quipped with a smile.
But at least the C’s are progressing in that department.