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Cleveland Cavaliers rebounding issues start with their guards

Josh Hart caused havoc on the offensive glass as the New York Knicks grabbed 17 offensive rebounds in Game 1.

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Rebounding has been the prevailing discussion point in the aftermath of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Game 1 loss to the New York Knicks and rightfully so. The Knicks were able to collect 42.3% of their missed shots leading to 23 second chance points. New York’s 17 offensive rebounds were the reason they came away with the win.

Talking about rebounding is a nuanced conversation. There’s a skill and art to it. Some players, like Tristan Thompson, have a knack for seemingly getting a perfect read off of missed shots so that they are in the correct position to grab the ball. Apart from those with that ability, rebounding often comes down to positioning, team philosophy, will and some bounces going your way.

Looking back on all of the Knicks’ offensive rebounds reveals a bit of all four. Their guards were relentless in their pursuit of the ball. This is particularly true for Josh Hart. He was able to easily do this since his defender was often helping on someone else when the shot went up.

Hart took advantage of that here. Caris LeVert is showing help on Brunson which forces him to take an outside shot. LeVert doesn’t find Hart but instead aimlessly wonders back towards the paint leading to a Hart rebound and putback.

Hart has a nose for the ball. Donovan Mitchell makes a distinct effort to get an eye and body on Hart, but loses the ball in the process. Like a corner getting stuck face guarding the receiver, Hart takes advantage and beats Mitchell to the spot.

Aside from Hart, the Knicks’ guards always seem to be in the right spot to collect offensive board. They will make you pay if you don’t put a body on them.

Cedi Osman and Evan Mobley contest the initial shot, but don’t try to get back into the play afterwards leaving Brunson alone to collect his own miss.

While New York was relentless on the glass, they also had a few balls bounce their way. The Knicks missed 21 three-pointers on Saturday, but were able to collect seven of those misses. This includes multiple airballs where the Cavs’ bigs were in good position.

Rebounding three-pointers is about being in the right place at the right time. The longer distance a shot is missed from, the more drastic the bounce will be. New York prioritizing staying put on the offensive side allows their guards to be there to gather those long rebounds. Mitchell leaks out early leading to two second chance opportunities.

Another area the Knicks were able to capitalize was grabbing their initial misses on transition attempts. The Cavs too easily gave up on the play allowing easy putback attempts.

Much of the ire has been directed at the bigs. Mobley and Jarrett Allen did a solid job of being in the right places. Julius Randle outmuscled Mobley for the game sealing rebound, but that wasn’t a common occurrence. Allen finished with 14 boards with 3 on the offensive end while Mobley grabbed 11 including 5 offensive rebounds.

As shown above, New York’s guards and wings were the ones who created most of the second chance opportunities. They’re who the Cavs need to be concerned with containing.

This shows up in the rebounding stats. Cavaliers outside of Mobley and Allen contributed just 13 boards. This includes Mitchell grabbing 5 rebounds and Garland none with both playing over 43 minutes. That simply can’t happen when New York is getting 20 from the four guards they played.

The good news for Cleveland is that this is something that is correctable over a seven game series. This isn’t a situation where one player is completely outmuscling their opponent. The Knicks are just relentlessly attacking from all angles. All five players need to find a body after a shot goes up. The guards especially need to make a consorted effort to do that going forward. They weren’t doing so in Game 1 and paid a heavy price.