Over their first three matchups this season, the Bulls pummeled the Celtics on the glass by outrebounding them, 155-106. But in February, Chicago traded its top rebounder, Taj Gibson, and then morphed from an elite rebounding team into one that is just better than average.
When Boston and Chicago met in March, the Celtics actually held a 51-40 rebounding edge. But for the Celtics, Game 1 of their first-round playoff series looked more like those earlier meetings.
The Bulls outrebounded the Celtics, 53-36, and got second chances on an unfathomable 45.5 percent of their missed shots in their 106-102 win Sunday. By comparison, the Thunder led the league in offensive rebounding percentage during the regular season at 27.9.
So for the Celtics, the task heading into Tuesday night’s suddenly pivotal Game 2 is simple: When the Bulls miss, they should not be able to recover the shot and try again.
“Some guys were just caught staring, looking at the ball instead of just hitting the body and going and getting it,” Celtics center Amir Johnson said. “It’s just all-out effort, and you’ve just got to continue doing your job. The play never stops until a person gets the rebound.”
Center Robin Lopez had his way in the interior, pulling down eight offensive rebounds.
“It’s not the guy that’s guarding him so much his responsibility,” Celtics forward Al Horford said. “Their job is to put a hit on him, and then the rest of the guys we need to go get in there and get that ball.”
Of course, Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo even snared four offensive rebounds — one fewer than Johnson and Horford combined.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said his players need to make early contact with the Bulls as they storm toward the basket to pursue missed shots. If Lopez surges into the lane and is not boxed out until he reaches the hoop, it will probably be too late. Also, Boston must account for Chicago’s wing players who come swooping in from the corners.
“You’ve got to block out sooner than that,” Stevens said. “That doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get it every time, but that gives you a better chance.”
The Celtics showed modest improvement in the paint as Sunday’s game progressed. After allowing 14 offensive rebounds in the first half they surrendered just six in the second. But that was due partly to the fact that the Bulls missed 32 shots in the first half and just 20 afterward, so there were fewer opportunities for them to gobble up their misses.
“I think we were more engaged in the second half,” Stevens said. “We were better in the second half.”
Celtics forward Jae Crowder picked up three fouls early in Sunday’s game and was limited to just 10 minutes in the first half.
“I have to do a better job of that,” he said Monday. “I watched film on it. A couple of ticky-tack fouls that I have to stay away from. Still have to come out aggressive and stay up on guys and make them feel it, but those fouls in the first half I have to stay away from.”
The Celtics will have to decide whether to make Portis a more prominent part of their game plan, or to play him closely and assume that there will be a regression to the mean.
“We’re much more aware of what he can bring to the table now,” Crowder said. “We have a slight adjustment on him. That can’t happen Game 2.”