The Bulls took it to the Heat in Miami on Friday, winning 96-89 and outrebounding the defending champs by 20 in the process.
If this was an aberration, it wouldn’t be likely to bother a team that knows it has the talent to play deep into the postseason, while struggling from time to time with its regular season duties. But Miami has been getting killed on the boards all season long, so it was time to put a spotlight on this issue once again.
The Heat did not practice on Saturday, but held a team meeting to address the rebounding woes, according to a report from the Associated Press. They reviewed video of every single rebound from Friday’s debacle, a game in which the Bulls collected 48 rebounds to just 28 for Miami.
The quotes from LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh after the loss to Chicago essentially told us that something like this was coming.
“It’s killing us,” Bosh said. “I’m out of recommendations. I’m trying to figure it out myself. It’s not the first time we’ve been outrebounded by 20. Who says that and is in first place in the East? We just have to keep fighting.”
“We’re not going to get bigger overnight,” Wade said. “We have to find a way to fix it or we are going to keep losing those games. ‘Go get the ball’ is all we can do.”
“If I knew, it wouldn’t be happening,” Wade continued on the poor rebounding efforts. “I don’t have the answer, and we don’t have the answer as a team.”
“It’s a recurrence — we got smashed on the boards,” James said. “You’re not going to win many basketball games like that. It’s not like we’re losing multiple games with one- or two-rebound [deficits]. It’s been by 15. Tonight was 20.”
The AP report correctly notes that the Heat rank last in the league in total rebounds, but a look at some of the more detailed statistics available shows that the team isn’t truly at the bottom of the league when it comes to cleaning the glass.
In terms of rebounding rate — the percentage of missed shots a team rebounds — the Heat rank 23rd. Still in the league’s bottom third, but not quite dead last, obviously. And on average, Miami gets outrebounded by 2.8 per game on the season — again, not good, but that differential places them at 23rd once more.
As a comparison, the Heat ranked sixth in each of those categories last season.
Rebounding is about a lot of things — tracking the ball, putting yourself in proper position, and exerting the effort necessary on every possession as a team to secure the basketball. It’ll come as the season progresses, and as the games get more important. For now, it’s simply the latest area of concern for the team that finds itself at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, rebounding issues and all.