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Clippers’ Jamal Crawford ends shooting struggles in Game 1 win over Spurs

first_imgHe cemented his 14-year NBA career fulfilling a job description that looked so easy only because he made it so.Jamal Crawford would come off the bench. He would score in bunches either to expand leads or fight back from deficits. He would give his starting colleagues a well-needed breather without any worry. All of which produced two Sixth Man of the Year awards. • PHOTOS: Clippers beat Spurs in Game 1As he showed in the Clippers’ 107-92 Game 1 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday at Staples Center, Crawford could get himself in the running for a third award. The Clippers may not boast or rely on the same amount of bench depth as the Spurs, but Crawford’s bench-leading 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 3-of-4 mark from 3-point range in 23 minutes provided a nice counterpunch to the Spurs’ 43 combined bench points. Only a few hours later, Rivers turned out clairvoyant. Three minutes after checking in at the 4:26 mark of the first quarter, Crawford sank his first shot attempt from 3-point range. He made a 9-foot jumper to stretch the Clippers’ lead to 30-18 after the first quarter. With San Antonio closing the gap throughout the second quarter, Crawford converted on consecutive jumpers for a 45-37 edge with 2:21 remaining. Crawford’s marksmanship continued in the second half, where he made all four of his shot attempts. Not that this development should seem surprising. “Jamal is one of those guys that I don’t worry about that much as far as rhythm goes just because it seems like he could not play for a year and come out on the court and give you 20, 30 points on any given night,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “The way he played tonight was unbelievable, and it looks like he hasn’t even lost a step. He worked hard to get back, and I think it showed.”After all, Crawford ranked second in the NBA in bench scoring with a 15.8 points-per-game clip. He scored at least 20 points off the bench this season in 21 games. Crawford also stands second and third for most 3-pointers made for the Clippers in a single season (161 in 2013-14 and 149 in 2012-13).That explains why Crawford and Clippers guard Chris Paul frequently talked about his struggles, mindful that both players remain consumed with their craft nearly every second of their waking hours. “The injury is one thing. Then coming back with the conditioning and trying to get a rhythm, all that stuff sucks,” Crawford said. “You have to get through that process sometimes.”Once Crawford did, he took off.Paul may have attracted all the attention with his team-leading 32 points on 13-of-20 shooting, seven rebounds and six assists. Griffin may have energized the Staples Center crowd with 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting, 12 rebounds, six assists and three steals. But Crawford provided the last needed ingredient that ensured the Clippers enter Game 2 of their first-round series Wednesday against San Antonio in the driver’s seat.“That was huge for us because with the second unit, we need him,” Rivers said. “We need him to score, and I thought he put a lot of pressure on their defense. He made shots for us.”Just as Crawford has done for most of his career. All of which makes Paul’s regular-season comments about the Clippers’ identity without Crawford pretty accurate.“’Mal is a huge piece of this team,” Paul said. “So I don’t care what anybody says, we’re not going to see who we really are until ’Mal comes back.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img Crawford’s effort also stopped a sudden dryspell to close out the regular season. After missing 17 games because of a calf injury, he returned for the last four games only to make 27.8 percent of shots from the field, including 21.1 percent from 3-point range. “To be out five weeks and not be able to do anything but watch, you can take some good things from it. But it was more bad than good for me,” Crawford said. “You want to be out there so bad to help your team and be a part of the guys and just be out there and get better.”It happened at the right time, given the playoff implications, something that hardly was a coincidence. Namely, that is because Crawford spent the extra time between the Clippers’ season finale last Tuesday in Phoenix and Game 1 on Sunday gave him more time both to rest and practice. Perhaps that explains why Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he had “zero” concern about Crawford’s recent slump.“Jamal will be fine,” Rivers said beforehand. “It just takes time. He’ll be good.”last_img

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