WALTHAM, Mass. – The Boston Celtics were hours removed from the most significant win of the season, a 111-103 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series.
For Jae Crowder, there was no time to celebrate.
Crowder was in the Celtics’ practice facility into the wee hours of Saturday morning, working on his shooting touch, which has been nowhere to be found in this entire series.
In three games, Crowder has averaged 6.7 points while shooting just 19.4 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point range, which has been the worst three-game stretch of shooting he has had this season.
Crowder finished sixth in the Most Improved Player of the Year award after averaging career highs in just about every statistical category such as scoring (14.2), rebounds (5.1 per game) as well as shooting (44.3 percent from the field), steals (1.7 per game) and assists (1.8 per game).
And while Crowder’s defense and rebounding (8.3 boards per game) has been exceptional throughout the playoffs, he knows delivering more of a scoring punch would bode well for the Celtics’ chances at evening up this series at two games apiece.
To do that, Crowder has to start knocking down more shots especially if the Hawks continue to sag off him the way they did for most of Game 3.
You can’t blame the Hawks for doing that as Crowder missed 10 of his 11 shots from the field. It was the kind of performance that regardless of the game’s outcome, isn’t easily forgotten. That’s why putting in some extra time in the gym for Crowder just made sense.
“I just want to lift our team a little more on offense and I wanted to see the ball go through the net,” he said.
Despite his struggles, his teammates and head coach Brad Stevens remain as confident as ever in his ability to shoot his way out of his current shooting slump which has come about since he returned from a high right ankle sprain.
“He’s so positive. We’re so positive with him,” said Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. “We’re confident in his ability to score the ball, help us like he has all year. Once he gets going, it’s gonna be scary. He’s hard on himself but at the same time he’s taking the right shots. The basketball gods will help him out soon.”
“I believe in the law of averages,” Stevens said. ”Jae’s been a good shooter all year. I have not lost one iota of sleep over that either; keep shooting it. He’s gonna be aggressive, we want him to be aggressive. He’s a big reason why we’re here.”