Celtics without Crowder: Who needs to step up?
When NBA teams lose any player from their starting lineup, challenges arise to find that same production. But this Celtics team is different and it really shouldn’t be that big of a problem. At the start of the season when Marcus Smart, the then Celtics starting point guard, was lost due to injury, the Celtics depth turned out to help them move forward; and quickly. Isaiah Thomas slipped into the starting lineup and was named an NBA all-star for the first time in his career. Jared Sullinger also didn’t start the season in the starting lineup, but as soon as he started playing well, he surpassed then Celtic and current Dallas Maverick David Lee. My point is, this team’s depth has been one of its strongest assets all season long. Look for it to help them again as they will be without starting small forward Jae Crowder for a minimum of two weeks starting tonight against the Indiana Pacers.
Evan Turner, who has been mentioned to be in the running for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, has been arguably one of the most valuable Celtics in the team’s surprisingly good season, as they sit at third spot in the Eastern Conference (39-27). Turner, who plays 27 minutes off the bench is averaging 10 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1 steal per game, is bound to step up and fill in at the starting three spot for the Celtics. Turner is seemingly close to getting a triple double almost every night he plays, and has been one of the Celtics most clutch players down the stretch. Turner recently voiced that he wants to win that sixth man award, “I don’t see what the knock is about getting damn near five assists per game,” Turner said. “That’s kind of crazy, don’t you think? Or like rebounds, and then you’ve damn near got a triple-double. You perform down in crunch time? That s— is crazy, ain’t it?”
Crowder and Turner bring the same type of intensity to the Celtics, which has been so crucial in why the Celtics have been so successful this year. But Turner is not Jae Crowder. The Celtics will struggle even more with their three point shot (they are already 26th in the NBA in three-point percentage). Turner shoots a rough 17.6% from downtown, which is just: awful. Nevertheless, Turner is a good defender and creates more offense as he as been playing point guard for the Celtics ever since signing with the team before last season.
The Celtics have a tough road ahead and they are facing some of the NBA’s top talent, as they will play Paul George and the Indiana Pacers tonight, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night, and Demar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors on Friday. Crowder usually is “the guy” that will guard guys like Durant and George, but without Crowder Turner is the de facto option. Turner HAS to defend well for the Celtics to win these games.
Defense has to be the first thing in his mind for the next couple of weeks if he wants his team to keep winning. Guys like R.J. Hunter and James Young can come off the bench to provide more offense but they are nowhere close to the Turner’s level of defense. Turner will have a big load to shoulder, and it could take a toll on him offensively but he needs to be okay with this. Without Crowder, Thomas and Bradley will no doubt get more shots and have the ability to put up more points to carry the C’s offensively.
Depth is overlooked in the NBA and the Celtics are in a great position to deal with losing Crowder. The Green have 16 games left and to remain the three seed in the Eastern Conference, they will have to put up a fight to win the majority of games left in the season. This team is scrappy, and Crowder is at the helm of that scrappiness. Now, all eyes are on Evan Turner. Will he be able to carry the Celtics while Crowder sits? We are about to find out in the coming games.