Superb Sub Crawford Driving Clippers’ Game-Changing Reserves

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LOS ANGELES – Jamal Crawford spent the first few minutes after Monday morning’s shootaround being as affable as ever while answering questions about the physical nature of the series, adjustments to be made and the importance of protecting home court.

Then came the one topic that visibly soured his mood. His smile disappeared, his shoulders slumped, his voice lowered.

While the Clippers were reviewing Monday night’s Game 2 strategy against the Memphis Grizzlies, the league was announcing New York Knicks gunner J.R. Smith as the Kia Sixth Man of the Year. An award Crawford owned for the first half of the season was swiped by Smith’s late hot streak that corresponded with the Knicks’ late-season 13-game win streak.

“Congrats to J.R.,” Crawford said softly. “You can’t worry about stuff you can’t control.”

It’s uncertain if Crawford was already aware of his fate or was just learning of it. Clearly, though, when it hit his ears, his mind reeled back to late January when the All-Star reserves were announced. Crawford, the 2010 Sixth Man of the Year with Atlanta, had hoped he’d be selected for his first All-Star team in his 13th NBA season. He was not.

“Going back to the All-Star team, I guess twice in a season,” Crawford said of getting the snub. “But congrats to J.R.”

So when Crawford came out on fire in the Los Angeles Clippers’ 93-91 Game 2 win over the Memphis Grizzlies for a 2-0 first-round series lead, it sure seemed like he had come out with a Big Apple-sized chip on his shoulder.

He canned his first six shots and put together an 11-point second quarter that changed the flow of the game and a 13-point first half as the Clippers’ bench again caused all kinds of problems for the Grizzlies.

Crawford led L.A.’s bench with 15 points, plus three steals and a single turnover in 33:30. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, as expected, backed his first-year sixth man who averaged 16.5 points in the regular season, his high mark since taking the Sixth Man award three seasons ago, while shooting 37.6 percent from beyond the arc.

“He’s [third] in the league in fourth-quarter scoring, he’s had 29 20-point-plus games off the bench,” Del Negro said. “He set the franchise record for free throws (58 in a row), set the franchise record for 3-pointers made (149 in the regular season). He’s been a huge catalyst for us all season from Day 1, the whole season, so it’s hard for me to look at it and say that Jamal didn’t deserve that. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more deserving.”

With an All-Star snub in the rearview mirror and now the Sixth Man hardware in Smith’s hands, Crawford still has the biggest prize of all in his sights.

He’s the leader of easily the deepest (and arguably the most dangerous) bench in the league. During the regular season it was just one of four benches to average better than 40 ppg.

In the first two games of the first-round series against the Grizzlies, the Clippers’ bench has been superior and has forced the hand of Memphis coach Lionel Hollins.

In L.A.’s breathtaking 93-91 victory Monday in Game 2, the Clippers’ bench outscored their opponents’ reserves 30-11. In Game 1, Memphis got 19 points from Jerryd Bayless, who played 30 minutes because the Grizz were constantly playing catch-up, and that limited defensive-minded Tony Allen to  just 17 minutes. In that game, L.A.’s Eric Bledsoe went off for 13 points, four assists and six rebounds in the decisive fourth quarter.

Del Negro has pushed all the right buttons so far. In Game 1, he went to little-used power forward Ronny Turiaf instead of Ryan Hollins and it paid off. In Game 2, Crawford accounted for half the scoring, but the Clippers got five assists and 15 rebounds from the bench.

“I have confidence in all of our guys,” Del Negro said. “I have no hesitation putting them in if I feel they can help us.”

And that’s included Lamar Odom throughout the season. Although Odom’s 3-point and free throw shooting has been abysmal, he’s rewarded Del Negro in other ways. He had seven rebounds in Game 1, more than burly big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined. There was his fourth-quarter sequence in Game 2 that included a defensive rebound and long outlet to Matt Barnes, a leaping swat of Randolph and a terrific bounce pass to the slashing Bledsoe for a dunk.

An all-reserve second unit changed the momentum of Game 2 in the second quarter and opened the fourth quarter on an 8-0 to build a double-digit lead.

“With the depth of the Clippers’ bench, we have to match them offensively as well as do a decent job on them defensively,” Hollins said. “But we can’t go out there and not score and give up eight, 10 points in a row. Then they can’t be out there for long as a group.”

And they weren’t. Hollins got all five starters back out there early in the fourth quarter to battle, in a rare occurrence, the Clippers’ five subs.

It’s a predicament the Grizzlies must solve in a hurry.

13 Comments

  1. #knickstape says:

    Jamal Crawford an Allstar? No way. J.R. smith neither due to the poor stretch he had. Overall Swish deserved it more because this year he did more than just scoring the basketball.

  2. Willy says:

    Now the Vinny fans start to surface? Coach of the Yeat recognition!

  3. justsaying says:

    I worry about their depth at C / PF. Their bigs in reserve last year were Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin – a cut above Turiaf and Hollins. At least Odom is coming on stronger lately, he could be their x factor for a deep run.

  4. Rashaad Powell says:

    Two “snubs” in one season…that is a SHAME. The good thing is, people who know basketball do not need this award to validate Jamal’s value, talent, and ability. This is NOT to discredit J.R. Smith, but if we are looking at “BODY OF WORK,” so to speak, Jamal has had a better SEASON than J.R. Smith. Sure, J.R. Smith MAY have (I do not think so) played better than Jamal for the last month or been the “reason” for his teams success in the absences of Carmelo Anthony, but that is a MONTH! What about the rest of the season? Why was this virtually a LANDSLIDE the ENTIRE SEASON, then all of the sudden in the last month, it is a “closely contested battle?!” This is based off of “hype” and “media pub,” not the fact that Jamal was SOLID all year and the SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR for the entire season. Answer this, if Carmelo does not get hurt, and J.R. is FORCED into that situation, are we having this conversation…?

    • Mike G says:

      @Rashaad….yes, we are having this conversation even if Melo didn’t get hurt. Have you looked at the stats? JR beats JC in just about every category other than shooting %. For example, 400+ rebounds compared to JC’s 100 something. It wasn’t until Melo got hurt that everyone noticed JR, but JR has a better “BODY OF WORK” all “SEASON” long.

      • Rashaad Powell says:

        @ Mike G…I guess we have to agree to DISAGREE! Keep in mind, Jamal is not the FIRST, SECOND, or (possibly) THIRD option in their offense and he is doing what he is doing. Realistically, J.R. Smith is the SECOND most viable offensive threat and option on that team. If it takes Carmelo getting hurt for J.R. to get noticed, that should tell you something. ALL SEASON Jamal “out shined” Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and whoever else on the Clippers. Chris Paul is a great player and in my opinion, one of the best point guards in the world. If you minus Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan’s superhuman dunks, do you really even talk about them (or him – Blake) being great players?

  5. james says:

    I’m a fan of J.R. Smith and loved having him on our team when he was in Denver, but he is not a TEAM player, and often resorts to chucking up 30 shots a game and getting a few of them to go in at key moments. He would be nothing if he wasn’t on a TEAM with superstars that let him come in off the bench for ONLY scoring. Put him on the Bobcats or Wizards and see if his name is even MENTIONED for sixth man. I’m just venting I guess, but I’m recording/watching a ton of games this year like never before, and blogging on teams I don’t normally follow. I work late at DISH usually, so I set the DVR to record all the games on TV and then watch at my leisure. I love that my DISH hopper can store up to 2,000 hours of shows or movies, and I don’t have to worry about filling up the DVR so quickly.

    • ShtUp says:

      Because Smiths job is to provide scoring, which there is teamwork in scoring. Its not like every single possession for smith is just iso’s. He follows plays which takes a TEAM EFFORT. He has to take a lot of shots because not a lot of players are dependable for the knicks to average 10+ points a game. Maybe if the knicks veterans were a few years younger and were a little more flexible then scoring wouldn’t be so heavily relied on Melo and Smith

  6. amitpal says:

    I dont get what tbe big deal is with crawford about the sixth man award and all star votes. Smith averaged bigger number and was more valuable to his team than crawford. If jamal wanted the award he should habe o layed better. Crawford was great at the begining of the year but struglled with with consistince the rest of the year. And as for all star stephen curry didnt make it so what makes jamal think hes more worthy. Stephen curry was the real snub in the all star voting.

    • Sandy says:

      Smith did better in the months of March and April, Crawford was continuous throughout the season.

    • Rashaad Powell says:

      Body of work. Jamal was solid all season. Carmelo doesn’t get hurt, J.R. isn’t “forced” into that role, we are not having this conversation. We SHOULD NOT be having this conversation.

  7. [...] Superb Sub Crawford Driving Clippers' Game-Changing Reserves While the Clippers were reviewing Monday night's Game 2 strategy against the Memphis Grizzlies, the league was announcing New York Knicks gunner J.R. Smith as the Kia Sixth Man of the Year. An award Crawford owned for the first half of the season was … Read more on NBA.com (blog) [...]