CRAWFORD COMES THROUGH FOR CLIPPERS IN THIS BATTLE FOR SEATTLE
Los Angeles - While Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas is enjoying a career season and finds himself in the midst of a competitive race for NBA Most Valuable Player, one award he knows he has no chance to take is ‘King of Seattle Hoops.’ While it may seem the two-time All-Star and Seattle native has a legitimate claim for the throne, Thomas acknowledges Jamal Crawford is still the most idolized player in the Pacific Northwest.
“Everybody wants to be like Jamal Crawford when they grow up,” said Thomas recently on the Bill Simmons Podcast.
Monday night, Crawford displayed why, scoring 17 second half points, kindling a Clippers (38-25) rally over Thomas and the Celtics (40-24).
In the third quarter the Celtics lead had swelled to 13 points, and Crawford had yet to make a field goal. A sullen STAPLES Center audience was on edge, waiting for a spark of a comeback.
Like he has countless times in his career, Crawford ignited the Clipper offense, scoring nine points in 70 seconds to give the Clippers the lead.
“I could see it in his eyes, he had the confidence,” Celtics guard and Seattle native Avery Bradley said. “I could see it in his bounce, when he had the ball in his hands, it’s hard to stop somebody with that much confidence that can score the ball like that.”
In the Clippers’ previous game against the Bulls, Crawford scored a team-high 25-points, and against the Celtics, Crawford captained the comeback once again, leading a 44-13 run from the late third quarter deep into the fourth.
Crawford’s recent scoring outbursts have come at the perfect time , helping the Clippers end a slump that saw them lose four of their first five games after the All-Star break, when averaged 5.5 points and shot 25 percent (5-of-20) from the field from Feb. 24 – March 3.
Against the Celtics, Crawford co-led the team in assists with five, with DeAndre Jordan being the beneficiary of a few slick passes during the late game run. Jordan struggled offensively in the first half, making 2- of-12 free throws, as the Celtics intentionally fouled the 49-percent free throw shooter to build their lead. In the fourth quarter after Crawford and the Clippers established a four-point lead, Jordan subbed back in as the only starter on the court with the bench unit and played to his strengths, dominating the paint offensively and defensively to produce his 27th double-double of the season with 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.
“When [Crawford] gets hot like that, and he starts to look for other guys, and he is patient with those shots and lets those shots come to him, it’s tough to guard,” said Blake Griffin. Thomas scored a game-high 32 points, but as the Playoffs loom and the Celtics battle for seeding in the Eastern Conference, he was not happy following the loss.
“The way we lost tonight was unacceptable,” said Thomas. “It’s the player’s fault, the coach’s fault, everyone in this locker room’s fault.”
Once the game appeared in check for the Clippers, “Paul Pierce” chants burst sporadically in the stadium, as fans pined for one last look at Pierce playing his former club. Pierce has not played since Feb. 5 in Boston, where he started, kissed the Celtics logo at center court, played five minutes and hit a picturesque three to end the game, which Doc Rivers described as “perfect.”
As hard as the fans the fans tried, Rivers did not oblige, keeping Pierce on the bench.
“I was trying to win,” Rivers said. “Paul understands. How many tributes do you get?”