The Boston Celtics finished off the sweep of the 76ers Sunday afternoon 110-106. It was once again a dominating performance throughout the entire game against a Sixers team that needs a lot of work this off-season.
There was one aspect of this game that stuck out from the others mainly because how the Celtics have fared all season long. In Game 4, Boston out rebounded Philadelphia 42-39. It was a small subplot of the overall series, but it is one that the Celtics normally do not get credit for winning. Winning the rebounding margins in Game 4 helps both second-chance points and fast break opportunities.
In this game specifically, Boston made the plays to win the rebounding battle. It was headlined by Jayson Tatum’s career-high with 15 boards. He said post-game that, “I’m doing anything I can to help us win... sacrificing your body... extra effort... that’s all rebounding is, is effort.”
That extra effort was on display Sunday all across the roster. Most times they were undersized, but it did not hold them back from grabbing more rebounds. Rebounds end defensive possessions which go a much longer way against a team like Philadelphia.
These little plays add up and make a big difference at the end of regulation. Fighting harder than your opponent while already having them down 3-0 is the perfect way to put the nail in the coffin. Kemba showed out there beating Embiid to the loose ball and then, adding insult to injury, throwing it off of Embiid.
The second-chance points also showed up in the final box score with the Celtics leading in that category 10 points to 6 points over the Sixers. Even from that small margin, it was the ten offensive rebound that made an impact. The Celtics have been holding their own these playoffs averaging 9.8 offensive boards a game which ranks 5th of the teams still available.
These offensive rebounds have been a staple of the Boston big men this season. It has been the tip out which they have used to success. Kanter still likes to play his bully ball inside, but both him and Theis know when to back tap the ball out to the wings waiting on the outside. The two know they may not be able to corral a rebound over Embiid and Horford, so they make a smart move of tapping it out, a much easier motion than catching and bringing it down.
In addition, on the other end, the Celtics seemed to have made it a goal to increase the tempo when a ball-handler grabs the rebound. Whether it was a wing or guard, they push the pace trying to find offense in transition. This has been something the Celtics have been stressing all season being at the top of the league in fast-break points. Against the Sixers, the Celtics again topped them in this category 10-2. It was a big factor that went far to a Boston victory.
The Celtics will have another tough match-up coming up against the Raptors when it comes to rebounding. There won’t be a superstar force down low like there was with Joel Embiid, but the Raptors will bring their athleticism and length.
The reason the rebounding is so important in this series is that the winner of the rebounding battle won each of the regular season contests. Yes, each of these games (three pre-pandemic, one in the bubble) had its own caveats, but nonetheless there is a correlative effect with this statistic and the victor. It is something to note looking forward in this series.