The shorthanded Boston Celtics split games with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers over the weekend.
Thomas was out for the weekend games with a bruised knee. It swelled up on him after he took some physical shots in the Celtics win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Thomas was questionable against Philadelphia, but it’s hard not seeing him return when the C’s take on the Washington Wizards on Monday night. The Wizards and Celtics have had a rivalry all season and I doubt Thomas will miss that if he can suit up.
In Thomas’s absence, Jae Crowder had a chance to show out, and he was not outshined by IT’s offensive heroics. Crowder averaged 19.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a steal over the two outings.
His hard-nosed defense and a timely offense have overshadowed a skill that Crowder has excelled at since the All-Star Break, rebounding. Crowder has averaged 7.6 rebounds in 13 games post-ASB. That’s a big jump over the 5.7 rebounds that he currently is averaging for the season. In fact, he’s recorded double-digit rebounds in every other game in that 13 game stretch, a stat that was first brought to light by u/Doob4Sho on r/bostonceltics.
Crowder has recorded ten or more rebounds in seven games this year. Five have been in his last 13 games. The other two came over 47 appearances prior to the ASB. His improvement has largely gone unnoticed, but if Crowder can continue to post these numbers, it would be a welcome sight come playoff time.
He’s never been bad at rebounding, Crowder has just taken it to another level recently. A level that could help a Celtics team that has struggled on the boards. Boston grabs just 41.7 rebounds per game, a number that ranks them number 27 in the NBA The Celtics ranked number 28 in the NBA before the ASB in rebounding. They pulled down 47.9% of available rebounds prior to the ASB while grabbing 74.7% of their defensive rebounds and 21.1% of their offensive rebounds.
After the break, the Celtics are seeing a slight jump in total rebounding and defensive rebounding, but they’ve seen a slight drop in offensive rebounding. Boston grabs 49.9% of available rebounds. The defensive rebounding has bumped up to 77.6% while the offensive rebounding fell to 20.1% through 13 post-ASB games.
The Celtics jump in rebounding is a nod to Crowder, whose own advanced stats have seen an uptick. Prior to the ASB, he was grabbing 9.1% of total rebounds, 15.9% of defensive rebounds, and 2.2% of offensive rebounds. In the 13 games since, Crowder has improved to grabbing 13.3% of total rebounds, 23.4% of defensive rebounds and 2.4% of offensive rebounds.
13 games is a small sample size, especially considering there’s still 12 games remaining in the regular season. Crowder will have to prove that he can continue to put up these kinds of performances on the boards. His contract is already a huge bargain, and he is continuing to improve, only ramping up his value.
The best part? The Celtics still have Crowder under contract after this season for three more years, and he’ll only make around $7 million per year. His contract is the perfect example of why Danny Ainge is one of the best GMs in the NBA. It’s arguable that Crowder’s skillset is already one that is just a tier below an NBA All-Star, with his continuing improvement, he could eventually get himself to that level.
Regardless, Crowder has proved to everyone that hard work does pay off. His year by year improvement is a testament to the attitude and work ethic that he brought to Boston.