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.

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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

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