Blakely: Crowder needs to turn 'disrespect' into motivation

Blakely: Crowder needs to turn 'disrespect' into motivation

BOSTON – Jae Crowder is a physical player, but there was an edge about him in Tuesday’s game against Utah that we seldom see.

And afterwards he told us why.

He was angry with fans who cheered for Gordon Hayward, feeling as though what they were doing was a sign of disrespect to him.

He’s right.


You never know what to expect at the TD Garden, but cheering for the opposing team’s small forward? Unless his name is Paul Pierce, that’s something you just don’t see happen all the time.

But Hayward is different on so many levels which serves as the unseen backdrop for Crowder’s frustration on Tuesday night.

Not only do Crowder and Hayward play the same position, but Hayward was the best player that Crowder’s current coach Brad Stevens ever coached when Stevens and Hayward were at Butler together.

Throw in the fact that Hayward can become a free agent this summer and the rumors churning out repeatedly that he’ll be a target for the Celtics  … Crowder has every reason to feel a bit uneasy about all this.

After all, Crowder made the most of his opportunity after being traded to Boston from Dallas to emerge as a “glue-guy” kind of player whose presence and impact both on and off the floor is undeniable and has made him an integral part of this team’s DNA.

And the Twitter beef that Crowder got into after the game only made things worse for both sides.

It left the impression that there’s a segment of Celtics fans who believe Hayward would be an upgrade over Crowder and would dump him in a minute if they knew Hayward would replace him.

There’s another segment of the fan base that believes the fans were cheering Hayward on because they wanted him to choose to play with the Celtics – and Crowder – when he becomes a free agent this summer.

But the one thing we do know for sure.

Just the thought of being disrespected by fans seemed to motivate Crowder on the floor in a way that we have not seen this season, and speaks to the thin line that exists between him being thin-skinned at times, and the desire he has to be successful.

Hayward had a decent night shooting the ball with 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting, but he didn’t make a single impactful play all game long – and Crowder had a lot to do with that.

And Crowder came back with 21 points of his own on just 6-for-8 shooting which included him going 5-for-6 from 3-point range.

Crowder has been an above-average defender all season, but it seemed he took it to another level on Tuesday. And on top of that, he was about as aggressive offensively as we’ve seen him this season.

He drove to the basket more than usual, moved without the ball better which created greater space on perimeter shots.

It was the best of Jae Crowder, and it came about because he felt slighted.

So if that’s what it takes to get Crowder to play at such a high level, boo him all the time.

Because one thing we know - and this goes for whether fans are booing you at home or on the road - when you step your game up and your team wins and you’re a big part of it, all the booing and signs of disrespect can’t change that.

And at the end of the day, those same fans who were cheering for Hayward will be cheering for Crowder.

But he’s not looking for their support.

He wants respect, something he feels he has done enough of with this team and this franchise to garner.

I agree with him.

He does deserve respect.

But the same holds true for fans who deserve the right to cheer for whoever they choose, whenever they choose to do so.

The bottom line is that Crowder needs to focus on what he can control.

And more nights than not, that comes down to his play which is where his attention should be anyway, and not on few fans who might like an opposing player better than you.

Crowder is too good a player to let something like this get the better of him.

And I trust when he’s had a chance to reflect on this night, he’ll see there’s only one thing he can do now.

Move on to the next game and let the cheers and jeers fall where they may.

Celtics finding ways to win without Kyrie Irving

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Celtics finding ways to win without Kyrie Irving

As expected, Kyrie Irving’s first regular season with the Boston Celtics is over following a procedure on his left knee Saturday that team officials described as being "minimally invasive," that will keep him sidelined until the playoffs.

Not having Irving for the final 10 games of the regular season is certainly disappointing for Boston, but it won’t have the kind of devastating impact one might expect a team to have to endure when the leading scorer is out for a significant chunk of time.

Friday’s 105-100 win over Portland was Boston’s fifth straight game without Irving, and 12th this season.


There’s no question Boston is a better team when he is in the lineup.

But when he’s not, the Celtics have continued to find ways to win games which is evident in their 8-4 record when Irving has not played.

Victories over teams like the Blazers only validates the quality depth that the Celtics players speak of when they talk about their team. 

“We know what we have,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “It is encouraging for our group. And for us it’s to make sure we keep working and understand when we commit on the defensive end, we’re a tough team to beat.”

But Horford acknowledges the challenge to be successful becomes infinity greater when key players such as Irving are out.

“We can’t dwell on the guys who are not here, the guys who are injured,” Horford said. “It’s tough, but it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and guys have really taken advantage of that opportunity. We’re trying to move forward. It’s hard but we don’t have an option.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 105-100 win at Portland on Friday night.


The ability to not just run a team but do so in an effective, steady manner is what separated Shane Larkin from most of the guys who saw action last night. He made timely shots, kept the ball moving (he had seven assists and just one turnover) while playing at a really good tempo which was apparent as he finished with a pace of 95.97 which was tops among all Celtics players.


Greg Monroe could not have picked a better time to play his best basketball of the season. Against the Blazers, he came off the bench and tallied a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. The 10 boards were particularly impressive with a team-best rebounding percentage of .303 and team-best usage percentage of .316 which speaks to how Boston made a point of going to Monroe early and often when he was on the floor.


It was another big-time scoring night for Marcus Morris who led all scorers with 30 points, easily becoming a fixture as Boston’s go-to guy now that Kyrie Irving (left knee) will miss the rest of the regular season. And like Irving, Morris is doing it in an extremely efficient manner. Against the Blazers, the 6-foot-8 forward was 9-for-13 (69.2 percent) shooting from the field with an effective field goal percentage eFG% of .885.


For most of Friday’s game, Jayson Tatum was not having a good game offensively with three points through three quarters of play. But Tatum, one of the NBA’s better fourth quarter players, was once again saving his best for last. He would go on to lead the Celtics with 10 points in the fourth quarter, which was a huge factor in Boston’s comeback victory.


The Celtics’ second unit looks a little different, but the production and overall impact remains strong as ever. Boston’s backups outscored their Portland brethren 26-10. But more than the points, Boston’s backups individually came up with big plays. Greg Monroe’s 10-point, 10-rebound performance stood out for obvious reasons. But the floor leadership of Shane Larkin and timely contributions from Guerschon Yabusele was also important in the win.


Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Sometimes we forget that a big part of why Brad Stevens is in Boston is because of what he has done as a coach this time of year.

He led a pair of Butler teams to deep postseason runs before coming up short in a pair of national title games.

Well, he’s embarking on a different kind of March Madness in leading the Celtics to a string of improbable wins, the latest being a 105-100 victory at Portland on Friday night.

It was the kind of victory that when you start to roll out the reasons why Stevens should be this season’s Coach of the Year winner, folks will use the win at Portland as an example.

The Blazers are not only one of the better teams at home, but they came in having won 13 of 14 games with the lone loss coming to Houston, which has the best record in the NBA.

But what made the victory so unexpected was the cut-and-paste lineup Stevens has employed because of a long rash of injuries.

Kyrie Irving missed his fifth consecutive game and is expected to be lost for another three to six weeks after having a procedure to on Saturday to help alleviate some of the soreness in his left knee.

Jaylen Brown has missed several games with a concussion, but he has progressed to where he's now questionable for the game in Sacramento on Sunday night. 

Boston was also without Marcus Smart (right thumb) who won’t be back until sometime in the playoffs.

And that doesn’t factor in Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) or Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee), both out for the season.

It’s easy to chalk up Stevens’ success to great Xs and O’s work.

But he’s doing more than that.

He’s inspiring a level of confidence in players that generated results exceeding all expectations; that is, expectations outside of their locker room.

Even when this team struggled with no clear signs of hope on the horizon, they didn’t blink.

Rather than use their less-than-ideal state as a justification for poor play, they funneled that energy and focus into becoming a better team - not better players, but a better team.

Because frankly, that is what we’ve seen from this group all season. Of course, you have your star in Irving, but this team has been a get-it-done-or-else squad all year that doesn’t get too locked into the success or struggles of any one teammate.

And that has allowed Boston to withstand the kind of injuries to key players that would have crippled many other teams.

But with the lack of bodies, there has been a lack of respect for how good this team really is.

Stevens has tapped into that and used it to help focus this team on playing great and most important, giving themselves a chance to win regardless of the opponent, regardless of how dire a situation may be.

And that has created the kind of March Madness Celtics fans are absolutely lovin’ right now.