The Celtics have the momentum in the series and could run away with it if Jae Crowder gets going
The series is tied at two games a piece but the Boston Celtics own the momentum as the two teams head back to Atlanta. After two big wins at home, Boston has changed how people are perceiving this series and they’re now the favorites to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the next round.
Isaiah Thomas has stepped up and they’ve gotten extra help from Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko as they faced the loss of Avery Bradley following Game 1. Still, after all the excitement over the past two games, Jae Crowder is still nowhere to be found on offense.
Jae Crowder started Game 4 by scoring five of the Celtics’ first seven points, and eight points in the first quarter. He wasn’t expected to keep that pace and score 32, however, he once again went incognito and finished with 12 points. His poor shooting continued as he finished shooting 4-of-11 from the field and 2-of-9 from behind the arc – missing his final seven three-point attempts.
Crowder didn’t have an impact on the game late in the fourth quarter either, besides his missed three, and didn’t see any playing time in overtime. For as good of an all-around player Crowder is, it says a lot about his struggles that he is no longer playing a significant role in crunch time. Marcus Smart has continued to show why many people rave about his defense and Jerebko has added outside shooting for a team who’s missing one of their more reliable outside shooters. They’ve basically replaced Crowder’s role on offense as Brad Stevens awaits for him to get out of his slump.
Jae Crowder is still committing on the defensive end and has averaged 7.5 rebounds per game in the four games this series – including a double-double in Game 1 – however, the Celtics are hurting without his offense.
Crowder has shot a terrible 23.4 percent from the field and 18.5 percent from behind the arc this series, including going 2-of-20 from the field in Games 2 and 3. It’s been rough to watch a big part of the Celtics’ offense go missing on the big stage.
It may be partly due to him not being fully recovered from the high ankle sprain he suffered late in the season, but either way, the Celtics need some sort of production from their small forward.
It’s obvious that the Celtics benefit greatly when Crowder shoots well. In the 43 wins Crowder played in, he shot 45.8 percent from the field, compared to his 41.8 field-goal percentage in 30 losses. He also averages around 2.5 more points per game in wins during the regular season (15.2 to 12.8 points per game). He’s not someone who’s going to take over the game like Isaiah Thomas, however, he added a lot of big threes late in games. His shooting ability keeps defenses honest, as well as his ability to score off the dribble.
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The silver lining of Crowder’s struggles is, the Celtics have an untapped asset and still head into Game 5 tied with the momentum. Paul Millsap went off for one of the most memorable postseason performances in Atlanta Hawks‘ history, however, the Hawks still lost in overtime. Millsap was their untapped asset through three games and they couldn’t capitalize on his huge night.
Getting Jae Crowder going could be the difference in the series. Having a 15-point scorer, three-point threat may be the missing piece for the Celtics to pull away late in games. Atlanta played their hand and the Celtics were able to counter, can Crowder build some momentum at the end of the series and give Boston an extra boost to get to the second round?