Timberwolves vs. Celtics (The Jordan Crawford Has Killer Steez Edition)

Jordan Crawford's got killer steez. (Photo credit to truthaboutit.com)

Jordan Crawford’s got killer steez. (Photo credit to truthaboutit.net)

The Wolves are in Boston tonight to close a three-game road trip. The game will be on NBATV at 7:30 P.M EST.

The 12-12 Wolves will be going up against a surprisingly decent Celtics team, whose 11-14 record is probably better than a lot of Celtics fans would prefer, given the strength of the top end of the 2014 NBA Draft, which will likely feature uber-prospects Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Dante Exum, Joel Embiid, and others.

New Celtics coach Brad Stevens is viewed by many as a coaching prodigy whose prowess on the sidelines underlies the Celtics (relative) success so far. There’s been a ton written on Stevens and the bang-up job he’s doing with a Celtics team largely bereft of blue-chip talent. Grantland’s Zach Lowe has a nice interview of Stevens here. (Lowe is always recommended reading, and this piece is no exception.)

The Celtics are a team on the rise.

As this graphic from basketball-reference.com shows, the Celtics have steadily been improving as the season has progressed. (The green bars indicate Celtics victories; the red bars indicate losses. The size of the bar indicates the margin of victory or defeat.) They should give the Wolves a good run tonight.

The probable starting lineups look like this (via ESPN):

PG

Rubio

9.6

Crawford

13.7

SG

Martin

20.6

Bradley

13.2

SF

Brewer

13.3

Green

16.9

PF

Love

25.0

Bass

11.7

C

Pekovic

16.2

Sullinger

13.5

What to look for tonight? A few things.

***

Jordan Crawford

No Celtics player has been a bigger surprise than Jordan Crawford. Known throughout his career as a volume chucker extraordinaire on par with Nick “Swaggy P” Young, Jamal Crawford, Andray Blatche, Gary Neal, and PDW fave Michael Beasley.

Visual evidence–(Eds. Note: Really fun visual evidence)–of Jordan Crawford and fellow volume shooter Nick Young going head-to-head in the Drew League (!) is below.

No Boston player has been a CHANGE AGENT this season like Jordan Crawford. After the Celtics started the season 0-4 with Crawford coming off the bench, Crawford was moved into the starting lineup as the team’s starting point guard. Yes, that is correct–point guard.

Crawford has responded. Over the last 21 games–roughly the timeframe in which Crawford has been in the starting lineup–the Celtics have gone 11-10. Over the Celtics last 20 games, he has shot a respectable 44% from the floor and 37% from distance. More importantly, he has dropped 6.2 dimes per game and had a 2.3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He has also averaged 3.5 rebounds per game during that span.

Crawford has had three 10-assist games–all Boston wins–and has had seven or more assists in seven games, in which Boston went 5-2. His PER is currently a career-best 18.6, an improvement of 4.5 from his next-best season, and his WS/48 are .158, which is an improvement of .106 above his next-best season.

Simply put, Crawford is thriving in his current role. He has been a respectable point guard on a team that badly misses the injured Rajon Rondo. I would’ve laughed and dismissed the possibility if you would’ve told me in the preseason that this was going to occur. It was abundantly clear that Avery Bradley–great at defending point guards as he is–is better suited offensively to playing off the ball. Crawford has done a fantastic job filling the galaxy-sized hole left by Rondo at the point, and it will be interested to see how he responds to Ricky Rubio’s defense tonight.

Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley is the best full-court defender I’ve ever seen in 25 years of watching professional basketball. He’s one of the few non-shot blockers I get truly excited to watch play defense. (Luckily for me, two of the others–Ricky Rubio and especially Corey Brewer–play for the Timberwolves.) Like Rubio, Bradley’s outside shot is hit-and-miss–I wouldn’t want to have to rely on it–but he’s averaging 13.2 ppg and his defense is worth the price of admission even if he wouldn’t score a point. (Eds. Note: Bradley’s shooting has been respectable this season. He’s hitting 44.5% from the field and 39% from deep. But I still wouldn’t want to rely on it.)

Other Jottings

Kris Humphries: I would’ve expected Minnesota native Kris Humphries to thrive on this year’s Celtics team, putting up relatively big numbers of a horrendous team. (Remember this, Gophers fans?) Not so. Humphries is struggling to get minutes on Stevens’ squad, playing 14.8 minutes per game off the bench and averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. He still isn’t passing. (Humphries has 11 assists on the season.) K-Hump, who’s nursing a bruised right knee, is listed as probable for tonight’s game.

Kevin Martin: Martin is mired in a slump right now, and that isn’t helping the Wolves one bit. They need his firepower if he’s going to be on the floor. He sat for much of last night’s win over Memphis after having trouble scoring against Memphis super-defender Tony Allen, and it was reported that he’s suffering from a knee injury. If Martin plays substantial minutes against Boston, things won’t get any easier against Bradley.

Shipping up to Boston

I can’t write a Celtics-related post without including this.

That’s all for now.

Enjoy the tilt.

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