Wizards’ Jordan Crawford saves best for last

January 22, 2013

Just wait until the end. See what I do then. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

With John Wall struggling, Bradley Beal sitting on the bench, and Martell Webster throwing the ball inbounds, who else was going to shoot it? It had to be Jordan Crawford.

The Wizards were tied with the Portland Trai Blazers with 3.6 seconds remaining at the Rose Garden and Crawford wanted the ball and the opportunity to take the last shot. He had made shots that secured wins before, missed a few potential tying jumpers, but had never known the glory of silencing an arena and leaving his opponents frozen with a crushing shot.

But when Webster’s first read for Wall fell through, Crawford fought off Portland’s Wesley Matthews, stumbled after colliding with LaMarcus Aldridge and became a magnet to the ball.

“I got it in to him,” Webster said, “and he did his thing.”

Crawford’s teammates certainly know what “his thing” is, since they’ve watched him take shots from unusual angles and unfathomable distances. So, when Crawford dribbled left, stepped back and nailed a fallaway shot from 31-feet to give the Wizards a 98-95 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, his teammates all had the same reaction. They know Crawford’s “steez.”

“I knew it was good,” Trevor Ariza said. “Because that’s the shot he shoots all the time. When it left his hand it just looked good.”

Emeka Okafor shook his head afterward to explain what transpired. “Nothing new. All net. That’s what he does.”

In the locker room after the game, Beal said Crawford told his teammates that he was due for a game-winner.

“He ended up making one, so,” Beal said of Crawford. “He always makes shots like that. You could kind of tell it was going in. It looked good the way he shot it.”

The Trail Blazers couldn’t take anything away from Crawford. Nicolas Batum called it a “big shot.” Portland Coach Terry Stotts called it a “helluva shot.” And Matthews said he doesn’t think he could’ve contested it any better.

Crawford, the Wizards’ leading scorer, finally rested a sore left ankle and somehow become a forgotten man as his team won its first three games without him. He made a three-pointer that gave the Wizards a lead they never relented in a win over Denver, but he had mostly been quiet in his first two games back, combining for just 11 points.

Through three quarters in Portland, Crawford had only taken one shot, committed two fouls and appeared prepared to have another quiet performance – until Coach Randy Wittman kept Crawford in at the start of the fourth quarter.

That's what I do. That's what I do. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
That’s what I do. That’s what I do. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Crawford made sure Wittman wouldn’t even think about replacing him with Beal or anyone else. He scored 10 points through the first six minutes of the period, giving the Wizards an 85-77 lead when he hit his second three-pointer.

“That’s what we like from Jordan; his ability to come off the bench and heat up,” Wittman said of Crawford, who scored all 13 of his points in the final period. “Bradley struggled a little bit and to have a guy like that that can come in is huge for us.”

Questions still remain about how Crawford fits and the size of his role going forward, with Beal starting to emerge and earning the right to play more and Wall getting closer to starting each game that he plays. But that wasn’t a concern in Portland on Monday, when Beal had a rough outing as he scored just two points on 1-of-7 shooting and Wall (six points, four turnovers) was having a hard time staying under control, making crisp passes and getting to the basket.

Webster and Nene had done most of the heavy lifting, combining for 48 of the Wizards’ 98 points. Okafor added his eighth double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. And Crawford came in for the close.

“We got a deep team. Got a lot of guys at the same position that can pick another person up and we’re just doing a good job playing together,” Crawford said. “We’re pulling out a lot of tough wins and building our confidence up for what we got to come.”

Crawford somewhat made amends for his breakdown against Brooklyn on Jan. 4, when he had two turnovers and missed two free throws as the Wizards blew an eight-point lead in 75 seconds before losing in double overtime. He also delivered the knockout blow against Portland for the second time this season, after hitting a three-pointer to thwart a 16-0 fourth-quarter run and secure the victory. But again, that shot wasn’t a game-winner. Crawford can now add one to his resumé.

“Amazing,” Wall said of Crawford. “He didn’t really get too many shots, but the shots really counted, he made a couple of big threes for us.”

Afterward, Crawford was asked if he was going to do something with the game ball. “If y’all can get if for me, I’ll keep it,” Crawford said with a laugh.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · January 21, 2013

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