Jae Crowder throws it down in the fourth quarter against the Nets.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty

Without IT, Crowder Gives C’s a Boost

BROOKLYN – The Celtics were missing a few things with Isaiah Thomas out of the lineup on Friday, so Jae Crowder did his best to help pick up the slack in Brooklyn Friday night.

It wasn’t always pretty, but Boston held on for its third straight victory. The Celtics spent a lot of time trading baskets with the Nets late in the fourth, but they eventually prevailed, 98-95, to improve their record to 44-25, including an Eastern Conference-best road record of 21-16.

As the King of the Fourth convalesced back in Boston with a sore knee, Crowder dropped nine of his 24 points in the final stanza, the loudest two of which came on a head-fake and baseline one-handed slam that sent the Celtics bench into hysterics.

Crowder’s dunk, as well as his efforts throughout the night certainly caught the eye of Celtics Coach Brad Stevens, who had to shuffle the deck without Thomas, his usual ace in the hole.

“I thought Jae Crowder was terrific tonight. Even when we were in the first half, struggling to get a shot, he comes out of a timeout and shoots it in,” Stevens said of Crowder, who also grabbed 12 rebounds. “He made those shots all night when we couldn’t get anything else going.”

Seriously, before we move on, find the clip. Watch Crowder’s dunk. Then watch the bench react.

That play, which followed a Crowder 3-pointer, gave Boston an energy boost down the stretch, as well as a 91-85 lead with 2:52 remaining. After the jam, Crowder, who careened out behind the basket (he was fouled on the play and as such, he barely landed on his feet), flexed both guns in the seats behind the baseline for a crowd that had already been chanting “Let’s go Celtics” earlier in the evening.

“It was almost a home court advantage,” Crowder said of the environment at Barclays Center. “Early in the game we had a ‘Let’s go Celtics’ chant, we heard that. We knew there was a great amount of Celtics fans in the building tonight.”

Prior to that flurry, the Nets had been knocking down 3-pointers, and giving the Celtics all that they could handle as the teams traded hoops. Crowder said that the team decided it was time to making some winning plays and put the game away.

Including his big slam?

“That was somewhat of a winning play,” Crowder said to reporters, to which a random teammate chimed in, “He barely got up.”

To which Crowder replied: “And-one.”

When the Celtics need a bucket in the fourth quarter, they’re usually looking for Thomas to make a play. Instead, much like they did against Minnesota, the Celtics played through Al Horford, who had exactly half of his 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the last quarter. Both of those fourth-quarter assists set up Crowders six-point mini-run late in the game.

While Stevens had told reporters before the game that he would need multiple players to make up for Thomas’ absence, those who took the floor had to adjust to the idea that they’re be a lot more touches to go around with IT on the shelf.

“There’s a lot more shot opportunities,” Crowder said of his teammates playing without Thomas. “For real, our offense, we run a lot of stuff for (Thomas). A lot of guys were getting a lot of looks that they probably weren’t used to getting.”

The Celtics will need more of the same from the rest of the roster, as they head to Philadelphia to play the 76ers Sunday afternoon, and they’ll again be playing without Thomas.

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