What do these players have in common: Jamaal Tinsley, Jameer Nelson, Mario Chalmers, and Kemba Walker.
Give up? They are the five point guards that Jordan Crawford has had to guard during his stint as a starting point guard of the Boston Celtics. Tonight, against the Portland Trail Blazers, Jordan Crawford will spend the game matched up against last year's rookie of the year Damian Lillard.
Lillard is out to prove that he is immune to the sophomore slump. His numbers are nearly identical to last year's thus far. His defense is better and he seems to have made an effort to rebound the ball more. Last year, the Blazers came to Boston and the Celtics made Damian Lillard look like a rookie. Kevin Garnett was superb, chasing out on pick and rolls, forcing Lillard to make quicker decisions farther from the basket.
Now, KG is in Brooklyn, Rajon Rondo is on the sidelines, and the Blazers are a better team than the Celtics. The past week has earned Jordan Crawford a lot of positive attention, and now his defense will be challenged more than in any other game he has started this year.
The tough part for Crawford is how much the Blazers depend on isolations and pick and rolls. They are the best at isolation in the league per Synergy Sports, scoring 1.03 Points per Possession. While it is only 4.3% of their total offense, Lillard is solid in those plays and it's clearly something they do well. The Blazers, like nearly every team in the NBA, live and die by the pick and roll. Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge will run it a lot, and the Celtics will need to close it down. They are ninth in Points per Possession in the league in pick and roll scoring.
The part of the floor that Lillard has not been comfortable with this season is behind the arc. He is shooting 36% (down from 43% last season) and he is taking more three pointers per game.
Crawford will be the point guard for the near future after Danny Ainge said he didn't see "anything happening this month" on 98.5 on Thursday morning. The Celtics have 10 games left this month, which is absurd when you consider the fact that it is already November 15. They only play 12 games in December, so a late December return would mean Rondo would miss another 20-25 games. That would put his missed games up to about 35 games.
Crawford will come up against a lot of talented point guards over that stretch of games, much better than the collection he has played against so far. He will have to learn quickly if he wants the positive attention to remain positive.
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