Slowly but surely Jae Crowder is reforming (Bobby Manning): The golden opportunity fell into Amir Johnson's lap, but it was Jae Crowder who made the most of it. His sensational drive to the bucket after a hesitation move on the wing from the three point line was the game-defining moment for me. The aggressive rush to the hole, with a hard grip on the ball reminiscent of a running back used to be a regular sight with him pre-injury but now it's becoming much more evident again.
There were other heroes tonight but Crowder continues to feel like the ultimate glue player on this team, the stronger he is the more cohesive the entire team effort is. The defense was sensational tonight, highlighted by him and Smart who had an incredibly difficult stop on Antetokounmpo on Milwaukee's last possession to seal the win. Tonight looked like a sure loss in the winding moments that would have to be attributed to exhaustion but the C's gritted through every moment of Milwaukee's nearly 10 minute late-game barrage. This was an extremely impressive road win given the circumstances and there's no mistake that Crowder's playing his best basketball in the backdrop of this success.
Playing free (Bill Sy): When a team goes on a four-games-in-five-nights stretch, you expect to go deep into your roster and utilize some unconventional lineups. With Avery Bradley out with an Achilles strain and Al Horford joining him on the injury report with a pulled groin, Brad Stevens has had to juggle his lineups and insert Jaylen Brown and Jonas Jerebko as starters.
On their current three-game winning streak, Isaiah Thomas is averaging 32 points and 8.2 assists, but for the most part, the Celtics as a whole have responded as a team with two of their best players off the court. Jaylen Brown is playing with a confidence that wasn’t there earlier in the year and he’s blossomed playing the 2 next to Thomas and Crowder. Kelly Olynyk has regained his form as a versatile big who can stretch the floor with his three point shooting and he’s added back door cuts and rim running alley oops to his repertoire. And as Bobby mentioned, we’re seeing what a healthy Jae Crowder can do on both ends.
Here’s a crazy stat: out of the 134 made field goals, 98 of them have been assisted. That’s over a 73% assist rate. This isn’t a knock on Horford or Bradley and certainly not a criticism of Thomas, but over the last three games, Boston has been playing with a flow on offense that we haven’t seen in a while. They’re also doing work on the defensive end. With a 100.4 defensive rating vs. the Rockets, Magic, and Bucks, they’ve generated 45 turnovers to the tun 48 points.