Lakers, Celtics and the Board Battle

Is it this simple?

Whichever arch basketball rival gathers more rebounds wins the game?

Well, it was certainly the case for the tightly contested 2010 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Celtics:

2010 Finals Game 1: Lakers 102, Celtics 89
Boards: L.A. 42-31 (Gasol, 14)
Game 2 Celtics 103, Lakers 94
Boards: Boston 44-39 (Rondo, 12)
Game 3 Lakers 91, Celtics 84
Boards: L.A. 43-35 (Gasol, Andrew Bynum 10)
Game 4 Celtics 96, Lakers 89
Boards: Boston 41-34 (Kendrick Perkins, 7)
Game 5 Celtics 92, Lakers 86
Boards: Boston 35-34 (Garnett, 10)
Game 6 Lakers 89, Celtics 67
Boards: L.A. 52-39 (Gasol, 13)
Game 7 Lakers 83, Celtics 79
Boards: L.A. 53-40 (Gasol, 18)

Ditto in Boston’s 2010-11 regular season win two weeks ago in Los Angeles.

Jan. 30, 2011: Celtics 109, Lakers 96
Rebounds: 43-30 Boston (Kevin Garnett, 13)

But in the four regular season meetings prior to this season, dating back to the Christmas Day game at STAPLES Center in 2008, the team with the most rebounds actually lost the game.

Feb. 18, 2010: Celtics 87, Lakers 86
Boards: Lakers 50-43 (Lamar Odom, 14)
Jan. 31, 2010: Lakers 90, Celtics 89
Boards: Celtics 39-36 (Perkins, 10)
Feb. 5, 2009: Lakers 110, Celtics 109
Boards: Boston 47-42 (Perkins, 9)
Dec. 25, 2008: Lakers 92, Celtics 83
Boards: Boston 40-35 (Paul Pierce, 10)

If you look more closely, the two results last season were more about Kobe Bryant, who missed the second game as the Lakers failed to execute down the stretch, and hit the game winner on Jan. 31 at the buzzer to save his team after Boston had played better throughout the evening.

In the previous year, the Lakers were the team with more general hunger, having just lost to Boston in the 2008 Finals, and were outrebounded in part due to the absence of injured Andrew Bynum in the road contest.

Ultimately, rebounding is a combination of effort (which team has a greater sense of urgency is often key), sheer size (the Celtics are about the only team who can match L.A.) and luck (as Kobe Bryant said, sometimes it’s just where the ball bounces off the rim). Furthermore, it reflects which team shoots the ball better, as there are more opportunities to collect boards for the better-shooting squad, as their opponent will have had more shots clang off the rim.

A betting man would say that whichever team rebounds better in Boston for the final 2010-11 regular season meeting will win the game, but as past regular season matchups have shown, it certainly won’t be a guarantee.