CRAWFORD'S FIRST HALF OPENS THINGS UP FOR CLIPPERS

Jamal Crawford

For much of the season, Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford was considered the leading candidate to earn his second career NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. Early Monday afternoon, the NBA announced that New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith had beaten out the 13-year veteran for the award.

When the Clippers took the floor against the Memphis Grizzlies for Game 2 of their first round playoff series, Crawford put on a show in the first half the only way he knows how.

Crawford electrified the crowd at Staples Center with a tremendous performance in the opening half, scoring 13 points in 16 minutes of action as he showcased his wide array of crossovers and circus shots, helping lead the Clippers to a 93-91 victory and a 2-0 series lead over the Grizzlies.

“Honestly it’s more about winning than anything,” Crawford said when asked about the award. “I know a lot of people say; ‘go out there and prove why you should have been this or that,’ but you kind of feel like you’ve been proving it all season so it’s not about that. You just want to go out and win and tonight my teammates told me to be aggressive. It’s about winning and that’s all I really think about.”

He scored 10 points in a span of 4:27 to begin the second quarter to help the Clippers maintain a three-point lead and eventually take a 50-44 advantage into the locker room by halftime. He missed just one of his five shot attempts in the period and was 6-of-7 from the field at the break. But that came as no surprise to a couple of Clippers players after they heard the news earlier in the afternoon.

“I loved it,” Clippers power forward Blake Griffin said. “It’s funny, Grant [Hill] and I were talking after shootaround today and they were talking about the Sixth Man thing, it was on SportsCenter, and Grant turned to me and said; ‘You watch, Jamal’s going to have a big night tonight, he’s going to come out hot;’ and he was.”

Crawford began his incredible run with a wide-open 3-pointer from the right corner in the first quarter that gave the Clippers a 26-25 advantage, their first lead of the game. When the second quarter began, so did the show.

He opened with a 16-foot turnaround jumper to break a 28-28 tie and then corralled a loose ball that went off the face of Grizzlies forward Ed Davis for a finger-roll layup on the fast break.

Then he went ahead and went Jamal Crawford all over Jerryd Bayless.

Crawford handled the ball on the right wing and then pulled one of his patented crossovers on Bayless who failed to bite on any of the moves. Crawford then faded away and, as he was falling to the opposite side of his shooting hand, released a high-arching shot that kissed the glass and banked in, nullifying Bayless’ perfect defense and sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

But Crawford also did a few other things aside from his scoring. He connected with Chris Paul in the first quarter on a beautiful give-and-go in transition to get Paul an easy layup prior to Crawford’s first field goal of the game. He also set a back-pick for Eric Bledsoe, allowing the lightning-quick guard to get inside and draw a shooting foul.

“I think Jamal was great,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I think he, especially the first half he hit some really tough shots. He got going. They locked into him a little more in the second half. We have to do a better job of setting guys up, screening, getting him open but Jamal’s always a threat out there so I thought he helped us set the tone early with Blake and you always have to worry about him when he’s on the court.”