While Rajon Rondo and his eye-popping triple-double were the obvious center of attention after the Celtics' 105-101 win over the Knicks on Friday night, it bears mentioning that the C's rebounding totals were impressive across the board, not just at the point guard position.
Paul Pierce pulled down 14 boards against New York; Rondo had 10, Kevin Garnett 10, Shaquille O'Neal seven and Glen Davis six. It all added up to a sizable edge, 54-38, over the Knicks on the glass.
That makes three straight games now that the C's have outrebounded their opponents, including a Miami Heat team that features elite board-crashers in Chris Bosh and LeBron James.
In case you couldn't tell, the C's are making the war on the glass a priority this season.
"Of course it is," Paul Pierce said. "We feel like with the defense we play, if we can rebound the ball a lot better, it'll make us an even better defensive team. Given that we were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league last year, you know, you want to address your weaknesses. That's one that we're trying to emphasize this year."
Rebounding was a problem last year — the C's finished with 3,165 total boards in 82 regular-season games, 29th in the NBA. Only the up-tempo, guard-oriented Warriors were worse. On the offensive glass, the Celtics' rebound total of 716 was dead last.
Then there was the postseason. The better rebounding team won in all seven of the Celtics' NBA Finals games against the Lakers, and obviously that distinction went to L.A. four times out of seven.
The C's learned the hard way that rebounding can make all the difference. They're turning things around this season, and they're making it a total team effort.
"So far, so good," coach Doc Rivers said. "But again, as important as our bigs are, it's really important for our guards. And Paul, he had 14 in one game and nine in one game, and we won those two. Then he had two in another game, and we lost that one. I do think it's connected in some ways."
The Celtics have always prided themselves on having good rebounders at every position. Pierce isn't going to pull down 13 boards every night like Dwight Howard — but for a small forward, he's good. Ray Allen won't have amazing raw numbers of rebounds — but for a shooting guard, not too shabby. As for Rondo, he's one of the best rebounding guards in recent history.
"It's got to be collective," Pierce said. "You know, a lot of the onus isn't going to be on me at the wings — it's got to come from everybody. Not only the bigs, it's got to come from Rondo. Rondo has set such a high standard for himself on the glass, and he has to be a part of it too, especially with the bigs going down, as well as Ray, as well as the guys coming off the bench."
The big men are obviously important. The two O'Neals, Shaquille and Jermaine, were brought in to make the Celtics stronger on the glass. Glen Davis' increase in minutes, especially at the center position, will give him a chance to shine as well. And then there's Kevin Garnett, who has two healthy knees for the first time in years, and it's already showing in his numbers. He's got 35 rebounds in three games.
"Rebounding's been going well," Garnett said. "But we've got to get our turnovers down, take care of the ball, execute better. But it's the third, fourth game, so this is still a work in progress."
As for his own personal stats, KG doesn't sound as though he much cares.
"Next question," Garnett snapped Monday, asked about his rising rebounding numbers.
Garnett is the prototypical Celtic — he plays well, he produces, but he's not about to gloat about it in November. There's still work to be done.
The Celtics have had a great start on the glass this season. But they're still working to be even better.