This series has already provided the drama, emotions and oddities of a full NBA regular season. The tragic death of Isaiah Thomas’ sister, the re-emergence of Rajon Rondo as a prime time player, the series-altering injury of Rajon Rondo, the heated exchanges between players,
in-game ‘tripping’ events,
and the interesting post-game commentary from coaches and players alike.
Interest has been so high that last week (April 10th), the Bulls – Celtics match up pulled a 2.9 Nielsen rating, just behind Houston – OKC at 3.0, with both series landing the #1 and #2 spots in overall cable network TV ratings.
All of this is to say, the Bulls – Celtics series has provided a serious shot in the arm to first round playoff match ups. And, even despite the the extracurricular events, both teams are actually playing some pretty decent basketball too.
Coming into this series, the Bulls ranked as one of the league’s best rebounding team, averaging the 3rd highest rebounds per game (46.3), and 2nd highest in terms of offensive rebounds per game (12.2). Meanwhile, the Celtics ranked a pedestrian 27th in rebounds per game (42.0) and gave up nearly 11 offensive rebounds per game to their opponents. Needless to say, there was a clear and significant divide in both teams’ abilities to rebound the basketball.
So far in this series, the Bulls have averaged 48.3 rebounds per game and nearly 15 offensive rebounds. The main culprit? The mighty Robin Lopez. In the first two games of this series, Lopez recorded 19 total rebounds and 13 offensive rebounds.
However, in the last two games, the Celtics made a change that not many people saw coming. In an attempt to add more length and athleticism, they started Gerald Green. The introduction of Gerald Green, while vastly upgrading the offensive performance in place of Amir Johnson, also addressed the root cause of the rebounding issues - dribble penetration.
By adding increased team speed and defensive athleticism, the Celtics could limit their defensive rotations. By sealing off clear paths to the basket and limiting defensive rotations, the Celtics were able to maintain contact with Lopez and force more rebounding pressure.
However, as is the case with rebounding battles, this series has and will continue to be a game of attrition on the backboards. If the Celtics are able to maintain defensive pressure and limit dribble penetration, they've got a great chance at winning the series.