2. The San Antonio Spurs need a better rebounding effort
While the Celtics were able to completely shoot the lights out of the building, what I think ultimately made the difference was that the Celtics were also able to out-rebound the Spurs.
While the Celtics only out-rebounded the Spurs by nine, (52 to 43), seven of those extra rebounds came in the second half. While both Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson have proven themselves to be very good rebounders for their respective positions, other than Jakob Poeltl, the rest of the team is only average at best when it comes to getting boards.
Rudy Gay, for example, had a grand total of one rebound in the entire game and is averaging less than five rebounds per game this year — the fewest since his rookie year. For being 6-8 with a 7-3 wingspan, that level of production on the boards is entirely unacceptable even with a good offensive showing.
Surprisingly, the Spurs actually had a much better showing in the rebounding department against the 76ers, only being out-rebounded by one. That said, there were noticeably a couple of occasions when either Joel Embiid or Dwight Howard were able to have their way on the glass, leading to some easy putbacks that could have been prevented. Even Ben Simmons’ game-winning tap-in could have been prevented had someone consciously put a body on him.
The Spurs are currently sitting at 18th in the league in rebounds which, while not necessarily terrible, is not particularly good either. In combination with their subpar defense and bottom-of-the-league 3-point shooting volume though, subpar rebounding can be (and was) the final piece of the puzzle in tight losses like the recent ones against Boston and Philly.
While the Spurs have managed to accumulate some of the better rebounding guards in the league, Jakob Poeltl cannot and should not be the only big man on the floor that can rebound.
Although it’s unlikely, the possible addition of John Collins as a restricted free agent this coming offseason could immediately help to solve this problem. Not only could he help with some of the Spurs’ defensive woes, but he would provide an immediate rebounding upgrade at his position, as he is currently the 24th leading rebounder in the league (only 3 spots behind Jakob).
I happen to also think that this could be an area of improvement for Lonnie Walker, given his speed and hops. If he could manage even 4-5 rebounds per game, that could help to solidify the Spurs backcourt as one of the best rebounding backcourts in the league.