With a sprint at Jeff Teague and a contentious interaction, Jae Crowder became a Utah Jazz fan favorite, and gained the respect of his teammates.
In the fourth quarter, when Teague hip-checked Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio into the Minnesota Timberwolves bench, Crowder approached Teague, confronting the Timberwolves point guard for what Crowder thought was a dirty play.
“He caught him with a cheap shot,” Crowder said. “He didn’t go for the ball, and he pushed him. The rest is history.”
In what was a fourth quarter filled with confrontations, Teague got ejected. Crowder then picked up a technical foul for having words with Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau, then picked up another tech late in the game and was ejected. Crowder was treated to a standing ovation from the crowd at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
For Crowder, in the midst of Utah’s 116-108 win over Minnesota, he established himself as an enforcer of sorts, a mentality the Jazz have needed since Trevor Booker left for the Brooklyn Nets in free agency (Booker is now in Indiana with the Pacers).
Crowder then engaged in a conversation on Twitter with Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler, who is out with a knee injury.
Smoke, for those who aren’t in the know, is slang for confrontation.
Crowder after the game tweeted Butler back:
Following the game, Crowder said he and Butler are friends just trash-talking each other. The two played together collegiately at Marquette.
“I’m sticking up for my teammate,” Crowder said. “I want to be a part of this family, and I know a part of that is sticking up for one another. I would hope someone would do it for me.”
Crowder scored 15 points in Utah’s win over the Timberwolves, hitting several big shots in the fourth quarter whenever Minnesota drew close.
“It means a lot to us what he did,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. “It shows that we have each others back and that we’re willing to stick up for each other. It’s a great mentality to have.”