Defense wins championships, and great teams close out possessions with rebounds. 

In the Celtics Game 1 loss to the Chicago Bulls, there was a 53-36 count in the rebounding department that didn’t favor Boston, and Jae Crowder noted how that was the difference. The turnover margin was slim (Chicago with 16, Boston with 15) and the field goal clips were the same at 43 percent. So, it actually was.

“(Rebounding) was the game. That’s the game. That’s the series,” said Crowder to ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “If we don’t rebound, we don’t win the series. It’s simple.”

This dilemma is nothing new for the Celtics. They finished the regular season at 27th overall with 42 boards a night, ahead of Sacramento, Milwaukee and Dallas. Because of their inability to finish plays, Boston’s opponents averaged 44.5 rebounds a night with 10.8 coming on the offensive glass. That led to them allowing 13.9 second-chance points during the regular season, and Chicago made sure the Celtics took that trend into the playoffs.

Robin Lopez and Rajon Rondo alone combined for 12 offensive boards; Jimmy Butler had three. The Bulls scrappiness paid off, and they dropped 23 points on seconds shots on Sunday.

The Celtics aren’t exactly undersized either. Up front, they have Al Horford, Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk getting a bulk of the minutes but none of them rebound at an exceptionally high rate. Then, there’s Crowder. He’s a bit undersized at the forward spot at 6-6, but he plays with a tremendous amount of energy and just has a nose for the ball. He grabbed eight rebounds in 31 minutes, and that led the team.

Once we get into the backcourt, things change drastically. Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas are small guards, so it’s not their fault if they don’t get a lot of rebounds. With that said, if their numbers are similar to the bigs, the C’s have a problem. In that first game, Bradley only pulled in two boards but was second on the team with an average of 6.1 — he’s not even 6-3. Thomas finished with six, one less than Horford who’s about a foot taller.

“It’s a team effort. That’s a big key to winning that game,” said Johnson, echoing Crowder’s sentiments. “I thought our half-court defense was pretty good besides (the fact that) it seemed like, if they put up a shot and missed, they got the ball and put the ball back in the basket. Our half-court defense was definitely up to par. We just gotta rebound.”

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