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How To Exhaust Your Basketball Team And Stifle Its Offense


Celtics-Knicks. Game two.

Let’s talk about the second last New York possession. You can watch it right here:


After Paul Pierce drives the lane and feeds Kevin Garnett for a dunk to put the Celtics up 92-21, the Knicks inbound the ball with 1:14 left on the clock. They bring the ball up, find Carmelo Anthony on the wing and Glen Davis rushes over to double him. Anthony fires the ball cross court to Roger Mason but Ray Allen closes hard and pins him behind the three-point line.

The clock ticks down… 9 seconds, 8 seconds….

Mason tries to find Toney Douglas but Rajon Rondo’s all over him, cutting off the passing lane.

The clock reaches 6 seconds, then 5, and Mason finally releases a tough three-ball. It catches the front of the rim, Rondo tips it — and the Knicks recover.


After a timeout, the Knicks take their second crack at it.

Douglas feeds Anthony the ball in the pinch post, and Davis again swarms in for the double. Davis’ cover, Jared Jeffries is briefly left alone under the basket but Garnett and Allen hedge towards him to deter an Anthony pass. Melo again swings the ball to Mason on the wing, but this time, Allen, because he was protecting the rim, is late to close. Mason drives past him, lays the ball up — and misses again.

The Knicks tip the rebound out and shuttle the ball back to Anthony at the top of the arc.


Davis rushes out to double for the third time. Melo passes to Douglas who tries to take Rondo off the dribble. But Rondo stays in front of him on the baseline and forces him back along the arc. Meanwhile, Jeffries has come up to set a pick, with Davis in tow, and Douglas hands him the ball. Davis is overplaying Jeffries (for reasons unclear) leaving him a clear lane to the basket. Garnett closes from the weakside and tries to force the miss, but Jeffries lays the ball in for a 93-92 Knicks lead.

Time remaining: 19.3 seconds.


The Celtics have just played largely excellent defense for 55 seconds and come out with nothing to show for it. Davis let Jeffries get by him on that final move but overall he did a great job doubling Melo and recovering. Rondo twice cut off offensive options. Pierce was draped all over Anthony. Allen had a great closeout that forced a bad shot. There were gaps, like Garnett failing to stop the eminently stoppable Jeffries (ESPN Scouting Report: Weak in every facet offensively, with special penchant for missing layups) but the real problem is those offensive rebounds.

The Knicks are a tuurrible offensive rebounding team. They were 24th in the league during the regular season. But in game one, the Knicks had an ORR of 31.0 (for 13 total offensive rebounds). In game two, it got far worse for the Celtics: the Knicks had an ORR of 41.7 (for 20 total offensive rebounds) despite a prolonged absence from Amare Stoudemire.

To summarize: Boston is not taking care of its defensive glass. At all.

The impacts aren’t limited to the defensive end. Yes, all those second chances put enormous pressure on the Boston defense, but they also keep Rondo out of transition, hampering the middling Boston offense. It’s hard to say which problem is more acute. Either could undo the Celtics’ championship hopes. Hell, either could undo the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Semi-finals hopes.

Project this kind of poor defensive rebounding forward to a second round series against Miami, and you can see why getting clean stops (one shot and out) is going to be critical. Pierce and Allen are going to expend a ton of energy checking Lebron James and Dwayne Wade. You can’t expect them to have anything left on offense if they regularly have to spend 24 seconds + 24 seconds guarding two of the most dangerous offensive players in the league.


Beyond the return and continued good health of Shaquille O’Neal, the Celtics probably need a couple of things to happen:

1) Gang Rebounding. Garnett is a superb defensive rebounder but the other bigs aren’t. Davis is below average at the PF spot, and terrible at the 5-spot. Green is a poor rebounder, period. Pierce is expending too much energy on Melo and on offense to expect significant rebounding gains. We’re still dealing with small sample sizes for Jermaine O’Neal but so far, he’s comparable to Semih Erden and Nenad Krstic. What’s left? Rondo can’t get ten boards every night. Basically, everyone is going to have to up their efforts and energy boxing out and clearing the glass.

2) More From Jeff Green. Hayes touched on this in his game two recap. Green has to make a much more substantial contribution. Besides upping his game on the boards, Green has to defend and score well enough to keep Pierce from logging the 45 minutes he did last night. And then Doc Rivers has to trust him enough to keep Pierce on the bench. This is why Green’s in Boston, right? To keep Pierce fresh. Right?

Instructive: Boston’s path to the finals (probably) looks like this (offensive rebounding rankings in parentheses):

New York (24th), Miami (19th), Chicago (4th), Los Angeles (5th).

It’s only going to get harder to keep teams off the glass.

What happened last night can’t continue or the C’s are headed for an early round exit.

  • Batman

    Rondo CAN get 10 boards every night because his name is Rajon Rondo and he is a baller
    But on the serious side, yeah we have to force Green and Davis to start boxing out the moment the ball goes up and O'Neal and Garnett have to just go up

  • talesofJP

    No reason to expect that Green will suddenly be able to do this after not being able to for such a long time in his career. There is always hope, although I am more hopeful that Green will find his offense, which would help the team a lot. We are playing decent defense on the Knicks most of the time, the biggest problem is rebounding and offense.

  • someguyinsac

    Sure hope they figure out how to pretend their hands have stick-um on them for rebounds in the next game.

  • ElRoz

    Green is still not integrated into Bozton's offense. Some o this HAS to be on Doc and Danny: Danny should know that his coach is not vey good at integrating new players. But I don't think there was much choice when Daniels went down.

    I do have faith – a small amount – that if Green and Kristic can concentrate and make a concerted effort, they can get some boards let's say 5 for Green over 15 minutes and 4-5 for Kristic if he plays 13-15 min. In any case, the team needs to adjust their rebuounding tactics and send 2 other players towards the basket in addition to KG. If not Ray and Pierce, then Rondo and JO….or West and Davis. There should be a rebounding triangle: either KG or JO in the middle + two more guys covering the area.

    • Dan

      Green is who he is. He's not a rookie that's going to make some small adjustment and become an even average rebounder. Especially considering that he's playing for a contract right now, don't you think if he could step it up that he would? It just isn't in his DNA.

  • DRJ1

    Much of the poor rebounding at the end was due to the double-teaming of Melo on the perimeter… 2 fewer bodies to rebound. Some of it was bad luck… ball bounces.

    Melo is a fool of a player who consistently takes low percentage shots. In this game, he happened to hit them. He often won't. I'm not worried about what happened in the end there. The Knicks are plainly not smart enough to take advantage of the potential advantages they had. And as JO gets more and more into shape (and therefore plays more and more minutes), we will have more and more rebounding.

    • Morpheus

      Exactly, Melo won't be hitting those shots throughout the series.

      Man he was taking some WTF shots all night, but they were falling.

      • skeeds

        dude, actually Melo is allways kinda like this. not THAT lucky, but his WTF shot percantage is way up there with Kobe.
        We can't expect his shots not to fall, he's the #1 or #2 scorer in the league. If I remember correctly, he's also the best clutch performer statistically… We need to work around that…

    • CG12

      Agreed. I think Melo had NBA Jam-style flames shooting at his ass at one point. And he will make shots like that on a regular basis, but not at the same rate he did in G2. I think you challenge those shots, but ultimately if he is going to make that sort of stuff, there isn't much you can do about it. I'd love to see Green rebound better, but it just isn't who he is. I do think that JO can and will provide more rebounding fire power.

      I am curious to see if Doc keeps giving Baby all the crunch time minutes at the 5 spot. We will continue to have rebounding issues if that is the case. One of my biggest gripes with Baby is this penchant he has for taking weird angles and getting in bad position. He does that on a regular basis. I'm thinking of DFish (Farmar?) getting an open lay-up when Baby inexplicably positions himself near the 3-point line on the weak side, leaving the paint unprotected and a clear driving lane. It is tricky, because I like him as a play maker on offense, but his skill set makes him much better suited to be a cog and a team player on defense, not a difference maker. I think Baby sees himself as a difference maker in all aspects of the game, and I appreciate that confidence, but it ultimately isn't in the best interest of the team.

  • kricky

    With his girth BBD can and should be a better rebounder (and offfensive rebounder too). But he is just to lazy sometimes.

  • jvmp

    Rondo taps the ball instead grabbing it? WOW! It's no wonder the Celtics are poor rebounding team.

    • Jmt

      It was out of his reach. He couldn't control it, so he tried to tap it to KG.

  • SteveB

    Long shots means long rebounds means much harder to be in position for the board. The guys down low boxing out have no chance since it's over their head. Most of Melo's boards were from his own misses inside. Don't let him get to the hoop and that solves that problem. Amazing that something so fundamental is killing this team lately. Crash the boards.

  • kricky

    I think we suck at rebounding because we are getting old and are out-hustled many nights on the glass.

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