Jae Crowder Continuing To Be "A Miami HEAT Type Guy"

Jae Crowder
Photo Credit: Garrett Ellwood
by Joe Beguiristain
HEAT.com

There’s a minute left in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and the HEAT are up 107-100 thanks to a big three from Jae Crowder a few moments ago.

With Milwaukee desperately needing a score to avoid going down 3-0, Khris Middleton grabs a defensive rebound and brings the ball up the floor as Crowder awaits him. After crossing midcourt, Middleton finds Eric Bledsoe on the right wing guarded by Tyler Herro.

Bledsoe then takes three dribbles towards the baseline, but Herro cuts him off and doesn’t concede the angle. As Crowder approaches to help, Bledsoe dribbles between his legs, retreats and looks to pass it back to Middleton. However, Crowder reads the play and applies just enough pressure for Bledsoe to cough it up.

And with his usual exuberance and energy, Crowder runs down the length of the floor with his arm outstretched to the other end.

A forced turnover and yet another winning play that has helped Miami reach the Eastern Conference Finals, a stage that Crowder is no stranger to.

“Jae has been to the Conference Finals. He’s been on a lot of winning teams. There are so many different qualities that we had him tagged as a Miami HEAT type guy, and he has lived up to all of them, if not more,” Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s really surprised me [with] his leadership qualities in the locker room that have really helped. And it feels like he’s been with us for years rather than just months.”

Crowder agrees.

“Yeah, it has clicked that way,” the vet said. “And I think that speaks volumes about the organization and my teammates, just welcoming me from day one…and I just love to win games, so I’m doing whatever I need to do to prepare myself and do what the team needs me to do to try to help win games. I’m a team player, so I don’t look into individual stats. I just want to try to win at the highest level, and honestly, I’ve been able to do that here. And I’ve been able to carve out a role on the court and inside the locker room a little bit and have a voice. So, I’ve been trying to just do my part.”

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Let’s go back to Feb. 6, 2020.

Due to the leadership of Jimmy Butler, the ascension of Bam Adebayo and the unbelievable shooting of Duncan Robinson (among others), the HEAT are 34-16 and fourth in the East.

With Miami shattering all outside expectations and limited on what it could do from a trade perspective, many pundits figure the team will just roll with what they have heading into the All-Star Break and the ensuing playoff push.

But Pat Riley, who is never one to rest on his laurels, finds a way and pulls the trigger to acquire Crowder, Andre Iguodala and Solomon Hill in exchange for Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Dion Waiters in a three-team deal.

The trade pays dividends almost immediately, as Crowder makes a seamless transition and spaces the floor from the start, Iguodala shows active hands defensively and gives Miami another ball handler and savvy veteran, while Hill quickly becomes a powerful voice both on and off the court.

All that greatly helps Miami, but the transaction is ultimately made with the postseason in mind.

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Having been to the Eastern Conference Finals seven times before (including as a video coordinator and assistant coach), Spo knows just how tough it is to make it to this point.

“That is why we brought Jimmy Butler here. That is why we put this team together with the veterans, adding Andre and Jae, building around Goran and Bam, having the young core,” Spoelstra said. “[It] was to try to do something in the playoffs. So, it’s not easy to get to the Conference Finals…and we don’t take it for granted, and we’re grateful for the opportunity that we’ve had.”

Ever since Crowder was named a starter on Aug. 1, he’s taken advantage of his opportunity and never looked back.

Sure, his shooting has garnered a lot of attention, and we’ll get into that later, but his defensive versatility has been even more important for the HEAT in the playoffs.

After primarily matching up with Victor Oladipo and T.J. Warren to a lesser extent in the first round, Crowder then defended Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton a ton in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Though no easy feat, Crowder held those four guys to just 40-of-96 shooting (41.7 percent) combined and forced them to commit 12 turnovers. Now, that tracking data can be a little finicky at times given the material, but the fact is he made things tough on all of them.

“That versatility defensively is important to our team,” Spoelstra said. “That’s how we’re built, and he adds another layer to that.”

Of course, Crowder also fared well on switches, played good help defense and showed out against other guys, such as Malcolm Brogdon, Bledsoe and Wes Matthews.

Knowing firsthand how exhausting that is, Adebayo lauded Crowder for his ability to live in the moment.

“99 is one of those people that he lives in the moment, and that’s what I love about Jae,” Adebayo said, referring to Crowder's jersey number. “He’s in the moment, and he doesn’t get too far ahead, too far behind. He’s always in the moment, and whatever he has to do in that moment, he gets it done. No matter what it is, no matter what task we have for him, he finds a way to get it done.”

Speaking of getting it done, the 30-year-old has been lights out from beyond the arc too. In fact, Crowder leads the HEAT with 30 made treys in the postseason and is tied with Herro for first at 40 percent from downtown (minimum of 50 attempts).

Remember that aforementioned three in Game 3?

“We know Jae has no conscience, so when he’s open, he’s going to shoot it,” Adebayo said. “And we have no doubt about it.”

There’s also no doubt that Crowder has been the “BOSSMANN” in the bubble.

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