Is Crawford gunning more than he needs to?

Jordan Crawford has long been known as a scorer in the NBA. Since the 2013/14 season began, he has been handed the reins to the team and named as the starting point guard. This allowed Avery Bradley to step away from the one, something that allowed all of us to heave massive sighs of relief. With careful ball handling and deft passing instincts, Crawford has balanced his ball distribution duties with scoring when it was called for, a welcome sight in the Rondo-less Celtics team right now.

In the past two games however, good old Steez has shown us a seemingly marked reversion to his get-a-shot-no-matter-what-the-defense-does scoring ways. Is this a consequence of the team’s passivity, or does JC need to slam the brakes on his scoring instincts and spread the ball more?

Pacers@Celtics 22 Nov

The Pacers game yesterday had Jordan going on an incredible 8/8 at halftime, including a long three that beat the halftime buzzer.

It was quite literally the Midas touch at work; anything he touched was pure gold.

crawford_shots

The third quarter however turned out to be rather ugly, as Crawford seemed to be a little too focused on getting a shot attempt over finding the open guys like he usually did, and degenerated into what I consider a bad showing for a point guard.

The numbers speak for themselves:

  1. In the first half: 0 TOs, 8/8 FG, 1/1 FT, 3 AST
  2. In the second half: 6 TOs, 2/4 FG, 0/0 FT, 1 AST

Every turnover (especially live ball turnovers) is an open invitation for the other team to tack two points onto the scoreboard, but the onus is especially heavy on the primary ball-handler to minimise careless mistakes. Obviously, Crawford was not involved in every single TO that happened that ugly half, but he still had a hand in some of them. When your player with the highest TOs in the half turns out to be the point guard, something is wrong.

Add the fact that your point guard only made one assist in the entire half? Bad sign. While Crawford is not responsible for every assist on the team the way Rondo is, his first priority is to set up the offense, spread the ball around, and attack second. Basketball at times, is like an invisible thread that connects five men in a complicated dance. The moment one man stalls or moves out of sync, the entire team’s movement is disrupted.

Take this possession for example:

After an attempt to start offense through Green, Bass dropped it off to Crawford at the left wing. Avery set a screen for Humphries, who popped out for the post up attempt. At this point, the shot clock was at 10 seconds. Had the pass been immediately made, Hump would have had ample time to get something going, or even kick it out for a shot.

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Three seconds passed, Crawford thought about passing and Hump was still waiting. “GIMME THE BALL YO!”  Shot clock is at 7 seconds.

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Hump realised the pass was not going to happen and immediately scrambled to set a high screen, which finally got Steez moving. Shot clock is at 6 seconds.

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Crawford was double-teamed at the corner, forcing him into the baseline. Note that Humphries was actually open for a shot or even a layup as he rolled in. Shot clock is at 5 seconds.

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Crawford drove into the baseline, came back up and tried to make a shot. Note that Green and Bass (more so Bass) were both open and waiting for the shot since eons ago. Shot clock is at 3.3 seconds.

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Crawford lost the ball (presumably from Hibbert’s hands) and Bass fought to regain possession. He didn’t notice shot clock was at 1.7 seconds, which meant SHOOT-IT-NOW in Bass terms – he takes a while to set his shot up.

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Bass took a dribble, regained control of the ball at the baseline. Shot clock expired as Bass tried to put up a jumper, which sadly went in after the buzzer sounded.

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There was another possession in the same quarter where we found Crawford doing this:

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He dribbled the ball up court and immediately dove into the low post, trying to back Hill up. With the possible exception of Bass, Crawford marooned himself from every other Celtic on the court, in what could be termed best as an isolation move with plenty of time on the clock, and an Indiana defense totally keyed in and ready to help. Notice Paul George had already left Jeff Green standing all alone, deeming him as a zero factor.

To borrow a phrase from a recent How I Met Your Mother episode:

How I Met Your Mother Season 9 Episode 6 - What the damn hell?

Celtics@Hawks 23 Nov

Today’s Hawks game painted a different picture.

  1. In the first half: 2 TOs, 0/2 FG, 0/0 FT, 8 AST
  2. In the second half: 2 TOs, 3/7 FG, 6/8 FT, 2 AST

Crawford was high and dry in the first three periods (0/4 FG, 2/2 FT) while making 8 assists in the half, a very good stat.  He turned things around in the final frame however, taking it right in, either making layups or getting whistles that sent him to the free throw line.

In the fourth quarter alone: 0 TOs, 3/5 FG, 4/6 FG, 2 AST

You have to admit, 60% shot accuracy with no turnovers at crunch time is a very welcome sight. One question lingers in our minds: did he absolutely have to take those shots, and were there no better options on the court? Let’s take a look at the decisions he made in the fourth quarter.

Celtics@Hawks 23 Nov: Jordan Crawford fourth quarter possession analysis

Steez dives into the paint with three Hawks collapsing in on him, and two open shooters at the three, 12 seconds on the clock. Was it the best idea to force contact and get free throws? Not the best, but I wouldn’t fault it too much. Two free throws in the hand are worth three points in the bush.

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After driving past his defender, Crawford faced Pero Antic at the ready. 8 seconds left, he had to get something going quickly, and ended up settling for a forced jump shot. Could it have been better? Maybe, but I don’t see any significantly better options at that point – notice everyone was camped at the perimeter and not moving.

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Vitor was open and had Horford sealed away for the easy bucket. Instead, Crawford chose to drive in, with Vitor screening away Horford. I would’ve said giving it to Faverini for the shot (and free throws if a foul was called) would have been a better option.

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17 seconds on the clock, Crawford received the ball from Lee at the left wing.. and immediately threw up a three in Teague’s face, which missed. Ample time left, could have gotten a better shot. Not the best.

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Open driving lane, 10 seconds on the clock, Crawford confident that he could finish before getting the ball stuffed in his face. Should Carroll have been in position to deny the layup, Crawford still had the option to kick it to Jeff at his favourite shooting spot: the right corner 3. Good call.

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Going past a Sully high screen, Crawford found a driving lane that would be wide open after he got past Al Horford. Once again, it all came down to confidence on the layup, but he made it. Had Korver actually jumped to help, Avery would still be an option for the right corner three. I don’t mind this one.
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After a Sullinger high screen comes, Crawford drives right in, with Horford a step slow at helping. The driving lane is open, Sully (who hasn’t exactly been lighting it up from three) is open, and we need a good shot. I’m cool with this one.

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Out of seven possessions, only two were really questionable decisions. I’m not too fussed with the outcome, and conclude Crawford hadn’t taken too many unnecessary and trigger-happy shots in the Hawks game, unlike the Pacers game where he went a little off-course into his own universe after floating in the 100% FG zone. That being said, more options have to evolve out of the half-court offense we have now; a high screen and roll play is not going to last too long if the rest of the team does not work in tandem and get themselves free as second or third offensive options.

He may not be the point guard Rondo is, but in Steez we trust!

- Kein

NEED ANOTHER WIN: Atlanta Hawks @ Boston Celtics preview

Atlanta Hawks Logo

Well, keeping the last post short and sweet seemed to work. Livingston and Ellington were killing us all night long, but we managed to claw our way to a victory. Keep it up!

Stat check: The Hawks have won 6 of their last 10 games, and are currently on a 1-game win streak as well. Road record is currently 18-19. Hawks (6) are currently 2.5 games ahead of the Celtics (7) in standings.

Game time: 30 March 2013, 1030hrs AEDT

Watch it on: NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

  1. Rajon Rondo (ACL) and Jared Sullinger (back) are out for the season
  2. Courtney Lee (ankle) may play tomorrow
  3. Kevin Garnett (inflammed ankle) will be out for 2 weeks
  4. Lou Williams (right knee surgery) is out for the season
  5. Zaza Pachulia (sore right Achilles) is out indefinitely
  6. Devin Harris (sore left foot) is questionable for tomorrow

Top enemy performers:

  1. Scoring: Al Horford (17.6)
  2. Rebounds:  Al Horford (10.3)
  3. Assists:  Jeff Teague (7.1)

Keys to the game:

  1. Contain Jeff Teague and Al Horford. The eternal kryptonite for the Celtics will be fast, attacking point guards and weak interior defense. It’s no wonder the two mentioned players always excel against the Celtics. In the past 3 meetings this season, Teague has averaged 22 points on 55.6% shooting while Horford has 17.3 points and 11.6 rebounds. Bradley will take care of Teague, so the bigger problem is whether our guys can out hustle Horford in the paint. Given how depleted the roster is at the moment, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Hawks will try to go to Horford often for an easy bucket.
  2. Closing off downtown. Kyle Korver, Kyle Korver, and Kyle Korver. I haven’t forgotten the January game where the Celtics decided not to guard him and he hit 8 shots from 3-point land. Lou Williams and Devin Harris is out, which leaves Josh Smith as the only legitimate threat from outside. I’m not going to comment, because Smith always ends up with double digits scoring despite his erratic performance.
  3. Keeping the Green alive. Jeff Green will continue to start for KG. We all know how Green performs as a starter, so fingers crossed! All our guys are slowly but steadily improving, so this is a good sign. It’s always exciting to wonder about who will come out strong in the next game. Crawford going into berserker mode? Wilcox ballin’ like it’s 2006? Bass having another insane game? Or will it be Randolph posting his first double-double?

I expect them to win this game, just because it’s Easter weekend and we deserve a win to top it off. To all you Celtics fans down under…Happy Easter, bleed green, party hard, and stay safe this weekend!

Home defense: Atlanta Hawks @ Boston Celtics preview

Atlanta Hawks logo
Back home at the Garden, up against a familiar face in the Eastern Conference. Anyone remember that awful Korver explosion in the last matchup? It’s definitely time to return the favour, so to speak.

Stat check: The Hawks are 34-26 right now, good for second spot in their division. 4 losses in the last 10 games, 3 of them on the road.

Game time: 09 March 2013, 1200hrs AEDT

Watch it on: NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

  1. Rajon Rondo (ACL) and Jared Sullinger (back) are out for the season.
  2. Lou Williams (ACL) is still out.
  3. Zaza Pachulia (sore right Achilles) is doubtful for this game.

Top enemy performers:

  1. Scoring: Al Horford (17.4)
  2. Rebounds: Al Horford (10.0)
  3. Assists: Jeff Teague (7.1)

Keys to the game:

  1. Not imploding: Play with consistency, do not settle into complacent and sloppy defense. Do not give the Hawks a chance to get into the game.
  2. Getting Smoove out of the paint: JSmoove is not The Big Ticket. NBA spatial analyst Kirk Goldsberry has illustrated this pretty clearly – Josh Smith is at his best near the paint, not when he’s jacking long twos. That’s exactly what we want him to take by the way, those clanking jumpers that gives us a long rebound and hopefully, a good shot at transition points.
  3. Cleaning the defensive glass: The Hawks are 26th in the league at offensive rebounding. Is that elite? Nope. Should we be losing defensive rebounds? Nope. Giving them second chances? A definite no.
  4. Stopping the three ball: The Hawks are 5th in the league at making the three shot (38.2%), that counts for something. Do you think the Pitbulls are going to let guys like Korver or Teague have an easy time shooting that ball? Not on your a**. Atlanta have other guys who will try to shoot however (e.g. Smith, Stevenson, Tolliver, Korver, Harris, Jenkins), and it’s going to have to be a team effort that stops the score. I’d expect the C’s to bring that same matchup zone against the Hawks in an attempt to make sure no man goes undefended when shooting from the arc.

This is a good chance for a consecutive fifth win. Defend the home court well, have a strong game and close the Hawks out.

Are we ready to win now? Boston Celtics @ Atlanta Hawks preview

Atlanta Hawks logo

Atlanta Hawks logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coming off a frustrating loss to the New York Knicks, the Celtics will try to get their win against the Atlanta Hawks on the road – on a back-to-back no less.

Fact: The Hawks are 24-18 this season, and have won only 4 of their last 10 games, 3 of the wins coming from home.


Game time: 26 Jan 2013, 1130hrs AEDT

Watch on: NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

1. Wilcox is cleared to play, but there is no confirmation on whether he will actually see court time.

2. Fab Melo is still not cleared for full contact practice after his recent concussion (walked into a doorway).

3. Lou Williams is out for the season with an ACL injury.

4. Devin Harris (ankle) is day to day.

5. Al Horford (calf) is day to day.

6. Zaza Pachulia (tendinitis right Achilles) is unavailable, likely day to day.

Defense

Remember Lou Williams? He basically tore us apart in the first quarter in that last meetup, scoring 16 points to give the Hawks a huge lead back then. Williams is unfortunately out for the season with an ACL injury, so that gives us a bit of breathing space. If centers Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia are out as well, the Hawks look to be quite shorthanded on the big men department. I’m not sure how much more handicapped this game can get to be honest. If we are to win, this is a very good shot.

The offense will likely look to be running through Jeff Teague to either Josh Smith or Kyle Korver, with Ivan Johnson on the inside muscling for scrap points.  Fight the rebounds, look for Bradley to contain the dribble penetration from Teague, and the perimeter shooters (read: Korver the marksman) will not be hitting them open ones. Get the good old stops, and then think about how the ball is supposed to go through the damn hoop.

Offense

The starters will be tired, do not doubt that for a second. Rondo and The Truth played heavy minutes in the Knicks game, and KG is not scoring his usual load of late, despite playing rationed minutes. Add in the travel from Boston to Atlanta, the usual rigours of a road game and the older guys will be fatigued. Pierce will be looking to score his usual load, but don’t be surprised if he comes up short.

We need big scoring from the bench guys, and I’m looking for Green to be more aggressive and take his points. Lee is looking more and more comfortable with every passing game, but I’m not expecting a 20 point game anytime soon. Green on the other hand, has shown himself capable of scoring at will – when he’s in the mood. Those points are crucial right now.


We nearly had that win in the Knicks game, but it was a matter of late game execution fouling up badly. Against a shorthanded Hawks team, we need to capitalise on the opportunity and grasp the win. Let’s go guys and GRAB THAT WIN!

Starting the streak? Celtics @ Hawks preview

“I was telling the guys before the game, you know, I told them to look at the East,” said the Celtics captain, who totaled 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in his team’s dismantling of the Pacers that lifted them back into the eighth spot in the conference. “There’s not one team out there that we feel like we can’t beat.

“You’ve got a couple of elite teams out there — San Antonio, Oklahoma City — and I was telling them how well we played against Oklahoma City. There’s no reason that we can’t play well against everybody like that. If you look at the elite teams, and we’re able to compete with them, then why can’t we compete with the other teams are coming here, like the Milwaukees, like the [Pacers], like the Grizzlies. I just want to keep the confidence going in the locker room and help them understand that when we want to, we can be this type of team.”

- WEEI via Ben Rohrbach

The Hawks are in the East, so we’re sure to kill them tomorrow. Right? RIGHT?


Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks {| class="...

Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks {| class=”messagebox” style=”margin: 0.5em auto; width: 100%; background-color: #f8f8f8; border: 2px solid #e0e0e0; padding: 5px; direction: ltr;” |align=”center”| link=|25px → link=|25px | : File:File:LeBron James watches free throw.jpg. |align=”center”| 100x100px|original file |colspan=”3″| |} Category:Extracted images (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Game time: 6 Jan 2013, 1100hrs AEST

Watch on: League Pass (or free streaming for that matter)

Roster changes: Wilcox is still out with his thumb injury (sprained ulnar collateral).

Energy
We’re coming off a back-to-back game, and everyone knows what that means.

Bad: Fatigued, listless Celtics who generally do not play well on consecutive nights, especially on the road for the newer guys.

Good: The Pacers game featured plenty of garbage time, so most of the starters did not collapse on the floor from sheer exhaustion. (KG of course, was ejected and had an earlier night.) Look for the Big 3 to be ready to play and start a win streak.

Rebounding
Al Horford, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia combine for 24.2 rebounds per game. Can Sully’s manic rebounding (plus everyone else) stem the tide? As always, second chance points will do us in. We need the same level of effort that was seen in the Pacers game, where we actually outrebounded the Pacers.

Offense
Same old cow, same old speech: Taking it in.

I really like the way Courtney Lee played today, keeping his headband off might actually be a good thing. (I’m half-convinced the headband was constricting the bloodflow or something, leading to his hesitation on getting inside previously.) Slowly but surely, he seems to be finding his hustle and offense once more.

Rondo had an excellent time today with his drives, but I’m not convinced it’s for any reason other than the Pacers playing him so wide, he was able to blow by every defender with ease. Although I like him nailing the jumper every so often, his drives and dishes will be needed to facilitate everyone else. Need. This.


What else have you got for the game? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

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