Though the points disparity didn’t reflect it — the Nets and Raptors each had 16 second-chance points, an amazing stat considering the overall disparity — the Brooklyn Nets were thoroughly out-rebounded by the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of the first round: 52-30 overall, 19-11 on the offensive glass and 30-19 on defense.
Yes, the Nets had as many defensive rebounds as the Raptors had offensive rebounds, and it’s a big reason why the Nets lost a close 100-95 battle at Air Canada Centre, knotting the Eastern Conference series up at 1 game apiece heading to Brooklyn for Game 3.
“We’ve talked about it all season,” Deron Williams said after the game of the team’s rebounding, according to Brooklyn Nets beat reporter Lenn Robbins. “It’s been a plague for us.”
Brooklyn has only one real option if they want to close that disparity: lift Kevin Garnett’s minutes restriction. Garnett’s played a strict 20 minutes in each of the first two games, and when he’s on the court, Brooklyn’s been the beneficiary. With Garnett off the court, the Raptors have outscored the Nets 114-99 and out-rebounded them 60-39. In his 39 minutes on the court, they’ve outscored the Raptors 87-73, and though the Raptors still have a rebounding edge, it’s not as pronounced — just 37-28.
We’re talking small sample sizes here, as any playoff sample size is. But stylistically this isn’t surprising: Garnett would have led the NBA in percentage of defensive rebounds grabbed had he played enough minutes to qualify this season, and he’s by far the team’s best defensive big man, with non-stop communication and a keen sense of pick-and-roll defense.
The Nets relied on Garnett as their defensive anchor in season, but he was also a major component in their stylistic shift. With Garnett functioning out of the high post, the Nets have five shooters or creators on the floor with their starters in, and Garnett acts as a hand-off passer or side-to-side mid-point. It’s why Garnett ranked third on the team in passes per game, despite playing just 20.5 minutes per game.
But it’s possible that at 37, Garnett just can’t push his body beyond 20 minutes per game, even in the playoffs, and maintain his optimal play. Then again, Mason Plumlee did allow Jonas Valanciunas to grab one of his 14 rebounds while Valanciunas was sitting on the floor. So maybe there’s something to upping Garnett’s minutes.