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Film Room: Jamal Crawford struggles in all phases against the Phoenix Suns

It was not a pleasant experience for Jamal Crawford last night. He shot poorly, played shoddy defense, and generally just looked out of sorts. This Film Room will take a gander back at the game.

Look, we all have our thoughts about what the team should do with Jamal Crawford and how many minutes he should – or should not – receive. He’s here, he’s getting minutes, and we’re going to take a look at some of those minutes from this last game. In that game, the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Phoenix Suns by a half-dozen points. There were ups and downs for the team as a whole, but no one embodied the downs more than Crawford did. Fair or not, we have to look at the time he spent on the court and give an assessment.

Plus-minus can always be a misleading stat when viewed devoid of context. For instance, Crawford’s +8 line from Monday night seems like a great line. However, the context has to be given. He was just 2-of-9 from the field, had one turnover, and generally played shoddy defense. Even the advanced metrics can lie. According to them, the Clippers had a Defensive Rating of 91.7 with him on the court and only 98.5 with him off of it. That makes it sound like the team did far better, right? Well, not exactly. That’s why we need the context.

That context shows that Crawford’s defensive numbers were heavily skewed by a couple quick little stretches. He played three minutes in a Rivers-Crawford-Johnson-Pierce-Jordan lineup that had a Defensive Rating of 0.0. That lineup featured an Opponent Turnover Ratio of 37.5 percent, which is partly why their Defensive Rating was so squeaky clean. The real test is Crawford with the starters. With the four primary starters, the unit had a Defensive Rating of 97.2 in 6 minutes. When Lance Stephenson was with those four, it was 89.3 in 17 minutes. That’s an apples-to-apples comparison based on who is around you.

Crawford’s issues in this game far exceeded the defensive end, though. Time and time again he would resort to taking a bad shot that he had no business taking. On one of them, he made a banked-in awkward runner that was an utterly ridiculous attempt. It was just one of his two makes. His other make was a catch-and-shoot corner three. That’s a good Jamal Crawford shot. The others? Not so much. Anyways, enough chitchat, let’s get to the footage and see what we’re dealing with here.

This is actually a two-way glimpse at Jamal Crawford from this game. The initial possession is by Phoenix and Eric Bledsoe has the ball here. As you can see, this is that Rivers-Crawford-Johnson-Pierce-Jordan lineup that was mentioned earlier. We see Tyson Chandler set a dummy pick here and Bledsoe comes off of it along the right wing. Chandler continues his roll to the rim and Crawford has to slip down to prevent any possible lob attempt to him. Bledsoe throws a skip pass to Sonny Weems in the left corner. Crawford closes out on Weems, but does so in a bad way – he leaves his feet. Weems throws a quick shot fake and dribbles into a wide open baseline jumper that falls short.

The rebound comes off into the hands of DeAndre Jordan and Jordan does the smart thing here by kicking it right ahead to Wesley Johnson in the middle of the floor. Johnson then gives the ball up to Crawford at midcourt. Crawford catches the ball at the STAPLES Center logo between the right wing and the midcourt line, and then proceeds to do something he does far too often. Crawford proceeds to the paint in an out-of-control manner and Jon Leuer slides over to stop the penetration. Unfortunately for Leuer, he’s a half-second too late to the contest and Crawford draws the foul against him after a wild attempt.

The play-by-play will show this just as a Weems miss and Crawford getting fouled on a driving transition attempt. However, it’s so much more than that. Crawford defends the initial Chandler roll action well, but then resorts to bad habits defending Weems. He leaves his feet, gets out of position, and gives up a wide open baseline jumper. From there, he gets the ball in transition and flings up a wild attempt that he draws a foul on. In the end, Crawford is lucky on both ends; lucky his man didn’t make a makeable shot and lucky they called a foul in his favor. There’s a lot of wild, out-of-control stuff going on here.

Another bad tendency that Jamal Crawford has is that he takes a lot of bad shots at bad times of the game. This is one of them. The Clippers have just gone on a massive run to seize control of this game and currently lead it by 7 points just beyond the halfway point of the second quarter. Crawford has the ball, dribbling across midcourt. The Clippers run a very simple pick action for him in the form of Paul Pierce and DeAndre Jordan together. However, Crawford gets impatient. Jamal gets the screen from Pierce, if you can even call it a true screen, and just heaves up a weird shot. The ball bounces on the rim a couple times and falls off for Phoenix.

No matter how you slice it, this is a terrible shot. Make or miss, it doesn’t matter. In all levels of basketball, this is a bad shot. The only player who can get away with this shot this day in age is Stephen Curry, and Jamal Crawford is no Stephen Curry. There’s still 17 on the clock when he rises up to shoot this monstrosity. It’s a killer to the team. This is the kind of player he is and these are the kind of shots he takes sometimes, so you have to live with it. However, that does not mean you have to like it in the least.

A minute later, he does a similar thing. Crawford dribbles the ball over midcourt, bullies Brandon Knight into the free throw line area, comes off of a Blake Griffin mini-screen, and fires up a contested mid-range jumper that rattles out. Just like last time, there was 17 on the shot clock when he took this shot. This is an issue. It’s a dumb shot. It’s not even just a bad shot; it’s also a dumb one. To know how dumb it was, just look at Lance Stephenson’s reaction to it in the right corner. I’d be upset if I were him, as well. This shot serves zero purpose to anyone. Just worthless.

This is a simple side-out-of-bounds for Phoenix a little late in the third quarter. Clippers, as you can see, are up by 3 points and have a Paul-Crawford-Pierce-Griffin-Smith lineup in there right now. Knight comes to get the ball and immediately jumps into a little pick-and-pop action with Markieff Morris. The primary defender on Knight here is Crawford. Instead of playing this screen smartly, Crawford attacks it over the top and recovers back after Knight passes off to Morris. However, Crawford strays too far away from Knight here for no reason whatsoever. The second Knight makes the pass, Crawford sort of jumps towards Morris and Morris fires it back to Knight for a three. Knight knocks it down and the game is tied just like that.

It’s hard to explain what Crawford was even thinking here. First, going under this screen would have been the right move because it forces Knight into a tougher decision. There’s no way Knight jacks up a three from four feet beyond the line. By going over the top, it forces the defense to cover a larger distance. When the pass is made from Knight to Morris, Crawford’s ineptitude really shows. For reasons only known to him, Crawford jumps at it and that’s all the space Knight needed to get a shot off. Had Crawford just stayed with Knight, there’s 12 on the shot clock and Phoenix has nowhere to go. Instead, the game is tied.

Here, we get another display of just stupidity on the offensive end. After getting the ball on a handoff from Austin Rivers, Crawford goes into ISO mode. Crawford sizes up Ronnie Price, who is a good defender, and just dribbles in front of Price for three seconds before heaving a miserable attempt for a three. The ball hits the back iron and Phoenix corrals the rebound to end the possession. It was a dumb shot at a dumb point in the game. This is the type of shot you’d expect with 3 or 4 on the shot clock, not 10. Crawford even had a passing lane to Josh Smith on the roll action initially but didn’t see it. This is frustrating.

Up by 6 points with ten minutes to go, the Clippers have a full bench unit out there still. This possession for Phoenix doesn’t really kick off until about 11 on the shot clock. Brandon Knight and Mirza Teletovic run a little screen action just to get Paul Pierce switched onto Knight instead of the defender being Austin Rivers. During this process, Ronnie Price walks up the right corner towards the right wing. When the space clears out, Knight uses his quickness to drive into Pierce’s body and get the edge. At that point, Price sprints back to the right corner in case Knight kicks it to him. The only reason Knight does pass him the ball is because Crawford is nowhere near him. For some reason, Crawford just turns and ball watches as Knight passes to Price in the corner. Price hits the three and the lead is cut in half.

This is a case of falling asleep on defense. Plain and simple. Crawford got too caught up in watching what the ball-handler was doing rather than keeping an eye on his own man. Initially, Crawford did well here. He followed Price up the sideline and stood near him. However, that was it. The minute Knight accelerates downhill, Crawford stops paying attention to his own man and just sort of watches what’s happening. He didn’t even help on the drive, which would have been nice. He got caught out of position and his man got a wide open corner three because Crawford didn’t pay attention. This is the stuff that’s unforgivable out of a veteran player.

With just over four minutes to go and the Clippers clinging to a 4 point lead, we see what happens when Crawford falls asleep again. It’s another side-out-of-bounds play but all you need to do on this is watch Crawford. With 8 on the shot clock, the man he is guarding gets the ball at the right wing. Since he’s not a three-point shooter, T.J. Warren passes the ball and awaits what comes next. What comes next is a rebound opportunity because Crawford, yet again, watches the ball without understanding where his own man is. When the shot goes up, Warren sprints down the lane and beats Crawford for the offensive rebound, and ends it with a putback.

It might seem like there’s a dead horse being beaten here, but this man is a veteran and has seen pretty much every kind of play, player, and set imaginable. For him to get beat like this is downright disturbing. Crawford’s issue is that he just stands there in a non-defensive stance off the ball and just focuses on what the guy with the ball is doing. This lack of awareness let Warren beat him down the lane and to prime rebounding position. Had he boxed Warren out from the beginning, this never happens and he’s able to get the rebound himself. This is not good.

Our final play in this Film Room comes with three minutes to go and could have been a massive turning point had the Clippers actually lost this game. It’s another two-way sequence. With 13 on the shot clock, Crawford gets the ball at the top of the arc and tries to work one-on-one against Warren. Initially, it looks like Crawford gets a step on Warren, but he really does not. Not at all. Crawford then pulls up from the right elbow with a hideous looking off-balance jumper. The ball clanks off the rim, Crawford hits the floor, and Warren rebounds the miss.

We’re only getting started here, though. Warren pushes the ball up to Eric Bledsoe and then sprints down the court as hard as he can. Bledsoe finds Warren streaking down from the top of the arc, and Warren steps into a perfectly in-rhythm jumper from the free throw line that he sinks. The lead is cut to 1 just like that. The issue is that Crawford took such a bad shot on offense that it took him out of the play on defense and gave his man a wide open shot because of it. This is inexcusable. This is the kind of stuff that will lose the Clippers a playoff series this season.

Jamal Crawford isn’t all bad. He has his redeeming qualities. He did make some nice plays in the passing game on Monday night. However, at this juncture, it’s hard to make excuses for the guy when this is exactly what he did all night. He took bad shots, played lazy defense, and just didn’t give a damn when it came to boxing his man out. A lot of players are to blame when stuff goes poorly. This isn’t just a Jamal thing. Yet, it is in this Film Room. The reason for that is because he brings almost nothing to the positive side of the equation when he isn’t hitting shots. Monday night was an example of that.

The numbers might have said he was a positive on the floor, but that was primarily because of who else he was playing with rather than anything he himself was doing. He gave guys wide open shots, routinely got washed out of plays, and just took stupid shots when he felt like it. For the Clippers to have any prolonged success this season, this type of stuff cannot happen on a routine basis. I get that the bench around him isn’t great, but it’s not like it was last year. At least understand your role. Hell, Wesley Johnson understood it last night and was the single biggest reason the Clippers closed the gap in the second quarter. Understanding your role can be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, Jamal Crawford doesn’t understand that.