NEW YORK -- Fresh off leading the Boston Celtics in scoring for the third straight game, Jordan Crawford was asked if he took any additional satisfaction in Sunday's performance against the New York Knicks given his limited playoff role when the Celtics faced the Knicks last season.
"No," Crawford said. "If it was my choice, I would have played last year."
Maybe no player has been more of a revelation this season than Crawford, who has gotten an opportunity to play first-unit point guard as Rajon Rondo rehabs from ACL surgery and has used it to cement himself as one of Boston's key contributors this season. During last year's first-round playoff series against the Knicks, Crawford played sparingly and only drew headlines for barking at Carmelo Anthony after Boston's Game 5 win.
Back at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Crawford scored a team-best 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and made six 3-pointers as part of Boston's 114-73 dismantling of the Knicks. Crawford added seven assists, three rebounds and didn't turn the ball over in 31 minutes of floor time. He was plus-38 in plus/minus for the game.
Over Boston's last eight contests -- a span in which the Celtics have posted a 6-2 mark -- Crawford is averaging 17.1 points, 7.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds over 33.6 minutes per game. What's more, Crawford is producing that output on only 12.3 shots per game, shedding his reputation as a volume scorer with bad shot selection.
"He’s playing well," coach Brad Stevens said. "I’ve seen Jordan and all the scoring doesn’t surprise me -- he’s always been really good at it, he’s always been a tough-shot maker. I think the best part about it is he’s picking his spots extremely well and he’s defending extremely well. This is not about guys, what they could do yesterday or what they’ve done in the past. It’s about what you can do to better improve yourself and he’s done a really good job of just getting better and really embracing that."
The lingering question with Crawford is how Stevens will find minutes for him when Rondo is healthy enough to return to the lineup. Ideally for Boston, Crawford can settle in as a second-unit combo guard, maybe chipping away at the minutes being played by undrafted rookie point guard Phil Pressey as he develops at the NBA level. Can Crawford maintain his production playing less consistent minutes with the second unit? That remains to be seen.
With Rondo not expected back until January, it's not something Stevens has to worry about right now. Unlike last season, Crawford is going to get plenty of opportunity to thrive on the floor and he's taking full advantage at the moment.
[Note: For more on Crawford's emergence this season, hop HERE]
Some other leftovers from Sunday's game:
BRADLEY'S DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Avery Bradley recorded the first double-double of his four-year career during Sunday's win while putting up 13 points and 10 rebounds over 28:24. Bradley admitted he's been trying to improve his work on the glass in order to help Boston's bigs. "It’s been a focus for me because I know my team needs me to do it, especially not having Rondo," Bradley said. "We’re not the tallest team, so they need the guards to help. That’s what I’ve been trying to do every game. I just need to be more consistent with it." Bradley's defensive rebound rate through Boston's first 17 games was a mere 10.4 percent (one of the lowest on the team among regulars). But over the last five games, it's bounced up to 12.4 percent (for comparison, Rondo's career defensive rebound rate is 12 percent).
C'S NOT CONTENT: The Celtics are playing some really inspired ball the past two weeks and Sunday was maybe their most complete effort of the season. But they refuse to celebrate. "We’re not content with where we are at," said Jeff Green, who scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and was plus-42 overall. "We have some things that we can get better at as far as communication, our defensive schemes, and offensively. ... There’s some things that we can get better at. We enjoy a win like this, yes, but we still have some room to improve and that’s what we need to do [Monday at practice]."
LOOSE BALLS: Boston's bench will get overlooked amid the gaudy numbers put up by the starters, but Courtney Lee had a very steady afternoon. He scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting over 19:36 and played excellent defense at the other end. ... Gerald Wallace didn't put up a shot over 21:22. This is the third game this season that he hasn't attempt a single field goal in at least 21 minutes of play. Wallace chipped in three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block on Sunday. ... Pressey missed three shots in Sunday's game. He hasn't made a field goal since Nov. 25, a span of six games and 63 minutes of floor time. He's still a steadying presence at backup point guard despite the lack of offensive output.