BOSTON — The Celtics traded away their starting small forward on Monday, but his replacement isn’t looking like much of a downgrade.
Recent addition Jae Crowder cemented his new spot in Boston’s starting five, scoring a career-high 22 points as the Celtics snapped a two-game losing streak with a 108-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at TD Garden.
Jared Sullinger added a team-high 27 points and 10 rebounds in the victory, as the big man went toe-to-toe with Anthony Davis (game-high 34 points) for much of the night. Sullinger got the best of Davis late however, scoring 13 of Boston’s 36 fourth quarter points, enabling the Celtics to fight back from a six-point deficit and close the game out with a 26-12 run. Marcus Smart (seven points, six assists) capped the charge with a clutch corner 3-pointer to push Boston’s lead to four with 39 seconds remaining.
While Sullinger put on the a show in the fourth quarter, it was Crowder that earned the biggest spotlight after the game for stuffing the box score on both ends of the floor. In addition to his 22 points, Crowder added three assists, three rebounds, four blocks and two steals in a season-high 36 minutes.
The performance earned the 24-year-old plenty of praise from his head coach and teammates.
“I think that’s who he is,” Brad Stevens said of Crowder’s strong all-around play. “I think that’s probably more of his reputation, prior to coming here, is just being an intangible-type of guy.
“One of the things I’ve noticed about Jae is he has a really deliberate way about his work and so it doesn’t surprise me that he makes shots. Lot of guys play the game and come in and throw shots up, you know that they never really are going to shoot, and Jae just takes shots that he gets in a game and practices those. And you know I’m not surprised that he makes them, because he spends a lot of time working deliberately on shots he’s going to get in a game.”
“He brings intensity and a defensive mind,” Sullinger added. “He made a lot of plays that turned our defense into offense.”
As additional veteran trades continue to go down in the coming weeks, Crowder is part of a new young core in the Celtics locker room that aren’t giving up on the season quite yet.
“We’re going to fight,” Crowder said after the game. “I’m not worried about what other people are saying right now. We know what we have to do each and every game to give ourselves a chance and we have a good understanding of the unit right now so we’re just going to keep fighting.”