Crabbe Keys In

by Casey Holdahl
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When the Trail Blazers matched the offer sheet the Brooklyn Nets offered to Allen Crabbe, some wondered if the 6-6 wing in his fourth season out of Cal was worth the expense. He had improved steadily since being selected with the 31st pick of the 2013 Draft, but even so, the contract he was offered, which the Trail Blazers would ultimately match in order to retain his services, was lucrative, to say the least.

But Crabbe has played such a large role in Portland’s improved play as of late, be it starting at shooting guard while Damian Lillard was sidelined with an ankle sprain, helping the Trail Blazers’ defense go from abysmal to passable or scoring in droves as he did in Wednesday night’s victory versus the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, that the discussion has transition from how Crabbe fits into Portland's salary cap to his status as a third scorer on an improving Trail Blazers' roster.

“He’s been playing great,” said Damian Lillard of Crabbe. “Since the beginning of the season I’ve been telling him ‘You’ve got to be aggressive. When you catch it and you’re open, shoot the ball. We need you to be aggressive.’ It couldn’t come at a better time. I’m still trying to work myself into the rhythm of the game, getting my game wind back, and he’s stepped up. He’s been big for us. He’s also been really good on the defensive end, too. He’s been huge.”

Since the start of 2017, Crabbe has been absolutely light’s out shooting from the field, scoring an average of 16.2 points on 52 percent shooting from the field, 50 percent shooting from three and 93 percent shooting from the free throw line in 34.2 minutes per game. And while he’s always been a deadeye shooter, he’s made significant strides in getting himself easier looks by moving without the ball.

“(Crabbe) is shooting with confidence but even more importantly, he’s making some really good reads off ball with his cuts,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Our passing is improving, I think, because of how hard he cuts and guys are looking for him. That type of play is contagious. Ball movement, when players make those cuts, it encourages passes. Allen is doing a good job with that.”

Crabbe’s performance, particularly in the first half of of Portland’s 102-86 win versus the Cavaliers on Wednesday night, was indicative of his play as of late. After putting up six points on 2-of-2 shooting in just five minutes in the first quarter, Crabbe went off for 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting from three, which helped the Trail Blazers extend their lead to eight going into intermission.

“You’ve got to find easy ways to score, can’t always wait for a play to be called for you or anything like that,” said Crabbe. “Just being aggressive. We’ve got bigs who can pass the ball really well, so I can do a back cut and get a pass from Ed (Davis), Meyers (Leonard), Mason (Plumlee), anybody. So I just feel like we’re really clicking on both ends right now. We have a lot of guys… it can happen for anybody on any given night. It was just mine again.”

With any luck, it’ll be Crabbe’s night more often then not during the second half of the 2016-17 season. While the Trail Blazers do have numerous scoring options outside of Lillard and CJ McCollum, Crabbe’s ability to get buckets and play the kind of trapping pick-and-roll defense that Portland has employed over the last few weeks makes him arguably the most important reserve on the team.

“He’s been big,” said McCollum of Crabbe. “He’s been aggressive, he’s coming out looking to score and he’s doing it in an efficient manner. I think he’s the key. That’s the guy we need to step up consistently, be aggressive. Make or miss, play his game every night and I think that’s what he’s been doing.”