Celtics’ Offense Stagnates Without Jae Crowder In Loss To Pacers

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If we told you about two years ago that an NBA team would lose Jae Crowder for at least two weeks, you probably wouldn’t bat an eye. But Crowder has vastly improved since then, and the Boston Celtics got their first glimpse of his impact Tuesday night.

The Celtics struggled offensively in their first game without Crowder, shooting just 38 percent from the floor and committing 13 turnovers in a 103-98 road loss to the Indiana Pacers. The defeat marked the second consecutive time the C’s have been held under 100 points, a rare occurrence for a club averaging 106.1 points per game, the fourth-highest mark in the NBA.

So where did Crowder’s absence hurt the Celtics the most? On this particular night, it was in Boston’s ability to stretch the floor and knock down shots. Also missing sharpshooting big man Kelly Olynyk, the C’s shot a brutal 25 percent (8 for 32) from 3-point range.

“I think that whenever you’re playing against size like this, you’ve got to make shots,” head coach Brad Stevens said in a postgame interview aired on CSN New England. “If you don’t make shots, you’re in trouble. If you’re not able to stretch the floor, you’re in trouble. Because otherwise, you have to have equal or bigger size, right? I mean, just logically. So, we’re going to have to make more shots, we’re going to have to get better shots late than we got, and try to hold our ground a little better than we did.”

The C’s especially struggled in the fourth quarter, where they went 2 for 9 from long range before Isaiah Thomas’ 3-pointer at the buzzer. The absence of Crowder and Olynyk also forced Stevens to go deeper into his bench, giving Jonas Jerebko 26-plus minutes of action and allowing recent D-League call-up Coty Clarke to make a surprise NBA debut.

Both actually held their own, with Jerebko scoring 17 points on 7 of 12 shooting and Clarke knocking down his first career 3-pointer.

“With Jonas and Coty, we just needed shooting,” Stevens said. “We have to space the floor with somebody. Kelly not being available, Jae not being available, probably the two ‘stretch fours’ that we play the most. So, we have to stretch the floor with someone, and I thought that Coty passed up the first shot but then shot the second one, and I thought Jonas was really good the whole game. And we need him to be good, especially in this stretch.”

Relying on a guy like Jerebko probably isn’t what the Celtics had in mind as they enter a crucial stretch of their season. Getting Olynyk back soon should help Boston open up the floor a bit, but Tuesday night’s result gave a glimpse into the challenges that face the C’s without Crowder in the lineup.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) talks with guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the second half against the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden.
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