“Grab the ball . . . box out and grab it. It’s as simple as that,” Wagner said.
Washington has been outrebounded in 26 of its 33 losses this season. While the Wizards (18-33) have had a player grab 10 or more rebounds in a game 27 times, they have allowed an opposing player to do so 54 times. Overall, the Wizards rank 27th in the NBA, averaging 42.5 rebounds per game.
It’s not quite so simple, however, to suggest that the Wizards’ issues stem completely from their low rebounding totals.
The Indiana Pacers, for example, a playoff-bound team with an all-star center in Domantas Sabonis, average the same number of rebounds per game as the Wizards, yet they will spend the rest of the season fighting for home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason.
The total number of rebounds may not matter as much as the overall benefit of competing for them. More rebounds present more second-chance scoring opportunities.
On Sunday, the Grizzlies treated rebounding like a team-bonding activity. While center Jonas Valanciunas gobbled up 18 rebounds, the team’s core young players, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant, finished with 11 and 10, respectively.
In the fourth quarter, Washington lost a seven-point lead because Memphis was the more active and physical team. The Grizzlies erased the deficit, went up by two points, and when an offensive rebound by Jackson led to a Brandon Clarke three-pointer with 2:38 remaining, they finally put the Wizards away.
“Their size is tough. That’s challenging,” Wagner said. “They are good at rebounding, and we struggled to finish plays.”
Memphis had 20 second-chance points, while Washington had 12.
“It’s tough. I think we got beat on the boards,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “Sometimes we come down, we can’t get stops and then we can’t make shots, either. Something’s got to give. We either got to get stops or make shots. At the end of the day, the biggest thing we can control is our defense. We just got to get back to guarding and defending the right way.”
On Tuesday, the Wizards will face a slightly worse rebounding team in the Chicago Bulls, who average 42.4. Maybe then more Wizards will join Hachimura and Wagner in helping to secure the boards.
“We just didn’t do a good job defensively, offensively and rebounding,” Hachimura said, summarizing the Memphis loss. “We just got to close it.”