The Celtics allowed 16 offensive rebounds against Portland, and they’ve dropped to 16th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage after ranking 3rd last season and 8th in ’08.
This is a very bad thing, and it’s a sort of unexpected thing. The decline in Boston’s offensive rebounding (they rank 27th) was predictable given the loss of one of the league’s best offensive rebounders (Leon Powe) and the signing of a player (Rasheed Wallace) who has never been a good offensive rebounder.
But Wallace has always been a very good defensive rebounder. So has Kevin Garnett. So has Kendrick Perkins.
So why are the C’s giving up so many more offensive rebounds this season? When you watch the tape, it’s very hard to pinpoint one cause or easy scapegoat. Sometimes an offensive rebound is just bad luck. But sometimes a team puts itself in position to fail long before a shot goes up.
Let’s look at why Andre Miller (a frickin’ point guard) was able to grab that board so easily.
Here’s where we are right before LaMarcus Aldridge (holding the ball) goes to work against Rasheed Wallace on the left wing:
Andre Miller (guarded by Rajon Rondo at the left elbow) has just delivered an entry pass to Aldridge and is cutting through the paint. All is well.
But seconds later, we see this:
The main thing to notice here is that Rajon Rondo has stopped paying attention to Miller (who is on the right edge of the paint, about halfway to the baseline). Instead, Rondo is lurking in the paint as Aldridge takes a hard dribble to his left. This is Rajon’s choice, and it’s the choice that is going to result in Miller’s offensive rebound.
Is it a good choice or an unneeded bit of help defense that isn’t really helpful? I’m not sure. Perhaps Rajon’s presence in the paint helped Aldridge decided to take a step-back jumper instead of driving, but Aldridge is more a jump-shooter than a guy who attacks the hoop off the dribble.
In any case, here’s what things look like when the shot is in the air:
You can see the problem area: Big Baby and Tony Allen have to box out three guys on the right side of the floor. Rondo is flat-footed in the left side of the paint. If the board bounces his way (or back to Eddie House near the foul line), we forget about this and move on.
Another thing to note: Tony Allen doesn’t start the rebounding part of this possession in great position, as he’s behind everyone and focusing on the same Blazer (Juwan Howard) as Big Baby. It’s tough to pin this on TA, though; boxing out three guys with two players is tough work.
Here’s what things look like when the ball comes off the rim:
Allen has done a nice job sliding inside of one Blazers (Martell Webster), and Big Baby has taken care of Howard. That leaves Miller alone for the board and put-back. If this board is anyone’s “fault” (and assigning blame in the NBA is tricky business), it’s Rajon’s.
Let’s look at one more example that shows the weird combination of poor technique, age and plain ol’ bad luck that can contribute to an offensive rebound for the bad guys:
Let’s slow it down. Here’s how the court looks as Rudy Fernandez takes that corner three:
Nothing alarming here. The C’s have a bunch of guys in the paint to box out Portland’s one guy in the paint (Dante Cunningham). Sheed’s positioning behind Cunningham isn’t great, but he is between Cunningham and the rim and can take care of things but sliding forward a step or two and sealing Cunningham out. Let’s see if he gets the job done:
Sheed’s a bit flat-footed, but otherwise his position here is sound, right? Everyone else is doing good work. Check out Glen Davis turning around to find a body and box out.
Except one thing: Look at Eddie House behind Sheed and Cunningham. Eddie appears to have his right arm (the one in a white sleeve) on Cunningham’s back, sorta shoving him. I watched this clip at least a dozen times. At first, I thought Eddie shoved Sheed by accident. The more I watch it, the more it looks like Eddie, for whatever reason, decided to give Cunningham an extra little push toward the baseline.
What do you guys think? Am I reading/seeing this right? If I am, perhaps Eddie is trying his best to take Cunningham out of rebounding position by shoving him under the rim.
If so, his plan backfires:
Cunningham is athletic enough to get back into the play despite Eddie’s little push. He goes the rim and curls back into the paint. Even so, he’s really only in position to get the rebound if it bounces into a very limited slice of air—right in front of the rim or just to the right of the rim, where there’s some empty space between Cunningham and Ray Allen.
And guess where it goes?
Seriously, if you’re going to blame someone here, whom do you blame? Sheed? House? Allen for being a generally poor weak side rebounder? The basketball gods?
It’s tough, right?
I think the only generalization you might be able to (cautiously) make is that Sheed just isn’t very quick on his feet anymore.
But one thing you can say for sure: It’s tough to pinpoint one or even two reasons why the C’s are having trouble protecting the defensive glass. It’s a team thing, and everyone has to do better.