Crawford, Bradley Excel as Duo in Backcourt
BOSTON – Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley: The Dynamic Duo? Sure seems it.
Brad Stevens inserted Crawford into the starting point guard slot, and in turn shifted Bradley over starting shooting guard, last Wednesday. All the Celtics have done since is gone undefeated over the course of four games.
Crawford and Bradley are two of the biggest reasons why. The duo is providing fantastic basketball at both ends of the court as they feed off of each other in the backcourt.
“They’re playing really well together,” Stevens said after Boston’s 120-105 victory over the Magic on Monday. “And they played together some early in the first four games, but not as much, obviously, and even in the preseason, but didn’t play this well together. I think they’re really in a nice rhythm right now and complement each other well.”
That might be an understatement. Crawford has morphed into a pass-happy point guard who has a calming effect on Boston’s offense. Bradley, meanwhile, has turned into the Bradley of 2011-12, when he was a defensive stalwart who could finish at the rim and drill open shots on a consistent basis.
Crawford’s exceptional play at point guard has been vital to Boston’s turnaround. This is a guy who has been deemed by many NBA pundits as a shoot-first player who lacks maturity. Thus far in 2013-14, however, he has been the exact opposite of that.
Crawford has dished out at least four assists in all but two games this season. Thanks to his 10 assists Monday night, Crawford has now led the team in helpers in five of Boston’s eight games.
“He’s doing a great job,” said rookie Kelly Olynyk. “He’s getting everybody the ball where they can be real effective.”
And he’s doing so while making sound decisions throughout the game. Crawford has committed two or fewer turnovers in six of his eight contests. Monday night’s double-digit assist total was accompanied by a goose egg in the turnover column.
That’s right – a 10-to-0 turnover ratio. That ain’t bad.
Crawford is displaying incredible court vision every night. Doc Rivers raved about that vision a season ago, but many seemed to scoff at those assertions. Now Crawford is the one who’s laughing as he picks defenses apart with ridiculous efficiency.
“Y’all just now noticing that, huh?” Crawford questioned to reporters following Monday’s win. “I was blessed with court vision. When a teammate’s open, you find him.”
Crawford has been following that direction like a true point guard would. Ironically, as he noted on Monday, no one on the outside has ever described him with those two words.
“I feel that I’m a point guard,” he said. “That’s other people that listed me at shooting guard.”
Bradley, however, is at the other end of the spectrum. Due to his 6-foot-2 frame, he is viewed as a point guard body. But the fourth-year player out of Texas has seen his brightest days in Boston as the team’s starting shooting guard.
That’s unquestionably where Bradley’s comfort lies. His numbers have exploded since moving back to shooting guard, as he has averaged 15.8 points per game on 52 percent shooting from the field over the past four games. Compare those numbers to 10.8 PPG on 37.7 percent shooting during his first four games and you’ll recognize quickly that 2-guard is his place to be.
Bradley was the most electric scorer on the floor Monday night at the Garden. He dropped in a game-high 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting against a player who is considered to be one of the league’s top perimeter defenders, Arron Afflalo. On this night, however, Bradley made Afflalo’s defense look nonexistent.
Bradley’s scoring and Crawford’s playmaking have been game-changers for the C’s. This team’s offense looks night and day to where it was just a week ago before Stevens had made the change.
“Not just me and Jordan; I think we’re improving as a team,” Bradley said. “Just been coming out here and being able to make shots and executing our plays. We definitely need to improve on the defensive end, but I feel like we’re getting there.”
Bradley has a right to feel that way. Boston has won four consecutive games since he and Crawford began starting alongside one another.
Take a moment to think about where the Celtics would be if Stevens hadn’t made that change.
Better yet, ask yourself where the Celtics would be if they began the season with this dynamic duo starting in the backcourt.