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The Lakers Are Winning the Rebounding Battle

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When I watch a game of hoops, which is something I enjoy doing from time to time, I find that I don't think much about offensive rebounds when they're not happening. They tend to be out of mind when they're out of sight. If one team or another is sealing off the defensive glass, I often don't really notice until I'm reviewing the final boxscore, at which point it strikes me that hey, Team X kind of got shut down on the offensive glass. I'm not sure how unusual I am in this respect. Occasionally you'll hear an announcer remark that a team's possessions are "one and done," but on the whole rebounding strikes me as underdiscussed relative to, say, shooting percentages and turnovers.

Which is why I want to draw a little attention this morning to how well the Los Angeles Lakers have controlled the glass in their first two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder. So far, not much has separated the two teams. There have been two close games, over the course of which the Lakers have outscored the Thunder by only 0.06 points per possession (1.02 to 0.96). Turnovers and field-goal shooting have been about even, while the Thunder have made it to the free-throw line more frequently and connected on a better percentage of their FTAs. (I'll post the composite series numbers at the end of this piece.) How the Lakers have separated themselves and taken an early series lead is by collecting second-chance points and preventing OKC from doing the same.

During the regular season, the Thunder were a splendid offensive-rebounding team. They recovered almost 29% of their own misses, which ranked third in the NBA. It was a huge factor in their reaching the playoffs, as their offense otherwise is pretty ordinary. They turn the ball over a ton and they're not a particularly accurate bunch of shooters, so they need the extra looks at the basket that come from crashing the glass. Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison are strong offensive rebounders, Kevin Durant gets a couple every game, and Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha are among the better offensive-rebounding guards in the league.

The Thunder found success on the offensive boards in the regular-season series against the Lakers. Over four head-to-head contests they pulled in 31% of their own misses and never less than 26% in any one game. Back on November 22, Ibaka had seven offensive rips just by himself. The Lakers have been good on the defensive boards all season long - their defensive rebounding rate of 74% ranked ninth in the NBA - but in their four regular season contests with the Thunder, OKC got the better of this particular battle.

In two playoff games this week, that hasn't been the case. In Game One on Sunday, the Thunder snagged 24% of their own misses; in Game Two last night, that fell to 20%. Ibaka, for all his solid play, has only two offensive boards in the series. Collison and Westbrook each have three. They simply haven't been able to overcome the size advantage of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who've both done strong work in cleaning up misses. With typically only one look at the basket per possession, the Thunder offense is sputtering. It hasn't helped that they've had almost no outside threats, allowing the Lakers to collect in the paint on D, putting them in better position to recover misses.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, the Lakers have been good-to-dominant in generating their own second and third looks. As C.A. noted in his recap last night, the Lakers posted an insane 40% offensive rebounding rate in Game Two. In the third quarter, when the Lakers found their footing after a shaky second period and reestablished a lead, they recovered a full 62% of their own misses. That followed a strong-in-its-own-right 32% mark in Game One. Again, Bynum and Gasol have been the driving force, but there have also been nice contributions from Lamar Odom (six offensive boards in the series so far) and Shannon Brown (three). As a result, the Lakers have enjoyed a decided advantage in second-chance points:

Game One

Game Two

Totals

OKC

10

12

22

LA

15

21

36

We should all be extremely thankful that Bynum is back on the court and playing effectively. With the Laker shooters bricking up a category-five storm, the team has been saved by the hard work done inside by Drew and Pau.

As promised, here are the combined two-game stats for the series so far. If you're a fan of turnovers, fouls and missed shots, this is some good shit.

 

Poss./48

TO%

FTA/
FGA

FT%

3FGA/FGA

2PT%

3PT%

EFG

TS%

OReb Rate

DReb Rate

PPP

OKC

89.5

18

0.39

84

0.24

46

20

42

50

22

64

0.96

LA

89.5

17

0.33

70

0.27

42

32

43

48

36

78

1.02

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