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

Cancelled: Indiana Pacers @ Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics’ 81st regular season game was supposed to be against the Indiana Pacers. What would have been Boston’s last regular season home game has been cancelled by the NBA, due to the bomb explosions at the Boston Marathon. This means both the Pacers and Celtics will finish with 81 regular season games. This game will not be rescheduled as the Celtics (7th) and Pacers (3rd) are locked into their seed.

The Celtics also released a statement on the cancellation of Tuesday’s game:

Out of respect to all those who have been impacted by the tragic events today in Boston, including members of the extended Celtics family, the Boston Celtics and the NBA have decided to cancel the game scheduled for Tuesday April 16 between the Boston Celtics and the Indiana Pacers.

The game will not be rescheduled. Instructions for any fans holding tickets to the game will be provided on Celtics.com after 3 p.m. tomorrow.

Our sincere sympathies go out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy. The entire Celtics organization would like to acknowledge the heroic efforts of the brave civilian, police, fire and medical personnel responding today in the City of Boston. – Chris Forsberg (Celtics reporter, ESPNboston.com)

The Celtics game against Toronto will still go ahead as planned, but it is not known when the team will fly out. Thoughts are with those affected by the bombings.

(Ed: Late putting this up, problem with WordPress notifications. First and last time!)

Grinding: Boston Celtics @ Indiana Pacers preview

Indiana Pacers logo 2005–present

Well, it seems like I was on the money on the Philly game. Will the team be able to pull this W off a back-to-back road game? If anyone can, the C’s can. Grit and balls people, just grit and balls.

Stat check: The Pacers have lost only 3 of their last 10 games, all of them surprisingly at home, and 2 in OT.

Game time: 07 March 2013, 1100hrs AEDT

Watch it on: NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

  1. Rajon Rondo (ACL), Leandro Barbosa (ACL) and Jared Sullinger (back) are out for the season.
  2. Danny Granger is out indefinitely with his sore knee.

Top enemy performers:

  1. Scoring: David West (17.7)
  2. Rebounds: Roy Hibbert (8.0)
  3. Assists: George Hill (4.9)

Keys to the game:

  1. Offensive execution: Indiana has been a top-tier defensive team this season, ranking 2nd in the league at holding opponents to 89.6 PPG. How we break their defense and find open shots is very important; expect a heavier load of Pierce and KG as the facilitators, and for everyone else to pull their load on hitting the shot. Unlikely as it is for Avery to pull a consecutive 20-point scoring night off, I’ll still like to see him try. Same goes for Jordan Crawford, he has to keep his mojo alive and keep trying to score – we are going to need every point he can muster.
  2. Playing with energy: Fatigue will undoubtedly set in on a back-to-back game, but the energy level has to be present. Rebound and defend hard, never give up on fast break opportunities, and do not surrender easy second chance points or 50/50 balls to the Pacers.
  3. Keep grinding: Have no doubt, this is going to be one hell of a gritty game. Indiana gets its wins through tough defense, the same way the C’s have been doing it in recent years. If we are to nab the win, it can only be by playing equally tough D, securing the rebound and getting stops.
  4. Stopping West: David West has been very good on the Pacers offense with an all-round game. Will Bass be able to stop him from scoring? I’d like to see how the team strategy is like on stifling him this game.

If we are to win, it will be a scrappy victory. I won’t be surprised if the game goes either way, but this will likely be a close one. Odds on C’s scratching a tough W out.

Finding consistency: Suns @ Celtics preview

Phoenix Suns logo

Phoenix Suns logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three game win streak, more to come! There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be taking this game. Granted this season’s team has not been consistent even on home games, but hell if we do not get this one.

Fact: nothing is going to happen in the meantime, we are just going to have to rough things out until the 10th at least.


Game time: 10 Jan 2013, 1200hrs AEDT

Watch on: NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

1. Wilcox is still out with his thumb injury (sprained ulnar collateral).

Consistency
The key to the win, as far as I’m concerned. Put up four good quarters and we’re done. The Suns are very prone to fourth-quarter offensive meltdowns (the way we used to be), keep the foot on the gas pedal and all will be good.

Containing Gortat/Scola
The Suns have two very good big men in Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola, both of whom can roll effectively off the pick, work off the post or take their own shot in the mid-range. Deny these options, and you’re left with less severe options like Dragic or Dudley’s shooting. Granted either of them could go off on scoring streaks, but Scola is the scoring anchor of this team, period.

Rebounding
No second chance points please. The better we can rebound on the defensive end, the better our chances of kicking it up in transition. This means rebounding machine Sully needs to do what he does, with everyone else chipping in. Our chances of getting rebounds are definitely better without overly helping on defense, something that the third factor relates to.

Dribble penetration
The Suns do not have aggressive penetrating guards outside of Goran Dragic, and containing the dribble penetration should not be an issue when we have a healthy Avery Bradley. Stop Dragic from directing the flow of the offense, everyone else on the court wilts. Limit the help defense from the big guys, and our rebounding improves. See how that works?


Not much to take away from this, it’s going to be a straightforward win unless the entire team decides to coast and collapse altogether. What do you reckon?

Hello Melo: Celtics @ Knicks preview

New York Knicks logo

New York Knicks logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This will be the real test of the Celtics revival: a Rondo-less road game, being well-rested and facing a true contender in the form of Melo and the Knicks.

Bring it on!


Game time: 8 Jan 2013, 1130hrs AEST

Watch on: Good old NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

1. Wilcox is still out with his thumb injury (sprained ulnar collateral).

2. Raymond Felton is out with a fractured right finger.

3. Rajon Rondo has been suspended one game for bumping referee Rodney Mott in the Atlanta game. (I was surprised when he didn’t get tech-ed right then. Ah well.)

Defense

Melo-stopper: There is no one in the team capable of defending Melo one-on-one in his current state. Not Pierce, not Green (who am I kidding), not Bass. No, not even Rondo (who is absent for this game), even though we’ve seen him try to defend LeBron before.

Melo is strong and quick enough to go against anyone outside and in the post, and should you be smaller or slower, he will be getting his points one way or another – either by bulldozing his way to the basket, or by his extremely quick pullup shot.

Look for double-teams to be used to force Melo off the ball, expect KG’s swarming help defense to be utilised.

Long range: Melo, Novak, Smith, Brewer, even Copeland. And not forgetting our favourite: SHEEEEEEEED. The 3 ball is an extremely important weapon in this Knicks team, and getting out there to deny the open shot is crucial.

Pick-and-roll defense: STAT is finally back, and while he is not in 100% game shape, he can still roll and finish with ease. Coming off the bench with Prigioni manning the ball, be prepared to see more of this being shoved our way today.


A good win in New York will cement the streak and give everyone confidence that the C’s are well and truly back. Rondo’s absence from this game will be tough, but count in the fact that Pierce always plays well in the Garden, so expect him to have a good showing too.

What are your points for the game?

Finding the light: Pacers @ Celtics preview

pacers vs c's

pacers vs c’s (Photo credit: burningairlinesgiveyousomuchmore)

Coming off a four game losing streak, it’s tough to find positivity amidst the bad we have seen so far. Nevertheless, it’s our job to remain deluded optimistic and look for the silver lining, rather than continually screaming TRADE (INSERT-NAME-OF-UNDERPERFORMING-PLAYER) DAMMIT!

Fact: nothing is going to happen in the meantime, we are just going to have to rough things out until the 10th at least.


Game time: 5 Jan 2013, 1200hrs AEST

Watch on: Good old NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

1. Wilcox is still out with his thumb injury (sprained ulnar collateral).

2. Rondo is not fully recovered from the hip bruise, but he hasn’t indicated any reason for sitting out.

Offense

I’ll talk about offense this time round, rather than harping on the same old tired defensive points of rebounding-help-rotation. The C’s need to make things simpler for themselves.

Less IsoPierce
IsoPierce is good in limited doses, but he is beginning to show the lack of lift in recent games. Reduce the amount of IsoPierce, allow him to take his 3 shots off the catch. He’s shown that he can still hit them shots. Forcing the captain to take the offense into his own hands and making him charge into a packed interior is not going to have pretty results. We’ve seen the jump balls, the blocks, the turnovers. No sir, less of those please.

How do we reduce Pierce’s role then?

Boston Celtics v/s Washington Wizards April 11...

Boston Celtics v/s Washington Wizards April 11, 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bench men – Green/Lee/Barbosa
I hate to even hope for miracles like these, but we need these guys. Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa are the young legs on the team, the ones who can and should be aggressively taking it in without hesitation.

Space it out, set a pick for them. Get them inside, force the contact and get some free throws! Less hesitation, and less outside shots please. We are not going to win a game shooting jumpers all night long.

Of course, there is that tiny problem of us having horribly ineffective pick setters. Times like these make me miss Perk a lot.

KG versus Hibbert
Having KG match up against Hibbert allows Sully to sneak into the paint. KG will be taking his usual long 2s, and that will definitely draw Hibbert out.

Note: I’m not saying Sully will be hitting putback bunnies under the rim all night long against the rebounding likes of West/Hansborough/Mahinmi/Granger, but with Sully’s positioning smarts, there’s a fighting chance our hardest working rookie can make something happen.

No? Nevermind, I know we’re getting killed on the boards.

Bradley’s cuts
All of Celtic Nation had a glorious moment of deja vu last game, when they witnessed a beautiful backdoor cut from Avery Bradley. HE’S BACK! And so it came to be that every fan wept, and gave thanks to something so sorely missed.

Sadly, that was all we got – one brilliant flash.

Not holding high hopes for his shooting at this point, but I’m really looking forward to Bradley making an obvious impact with his precise cuts and Rondo’s passing vision. Potent scoring formula, yes? I’m hoping Rondo will be in better shape to drive and pass tomorrow.


Against yet another team with a tough interior presence, I’m not hoping for the C’s to take a blowout win. I’m glad Collison left though, that’s one less guy to carve us up for layups.

All I’m saying is, any kind of win is good at this point, and the odds are not fantastic.

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