Houston • Jae Crowder’s reads have gotten better. That’s Quin Snyder’s best explanation to the recent uptick in Crowder’s play.
The Utah Jazz offense has long been intricate under Snyder, with multiple sets, variations and options that Crowder’s had to learn since coming to the Jazz in a trade that sent Rodney Hood to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With Cleveland, Crowder’s job was easy: He stood in a corner, spotted up from 3-point range, and waited for LeBron James to pass him the ball. With Utah, Crowder’s had to adapt to more in the heat of a competitive playoff race.
It hasn’t always been easy for him. He’s shooting 38 percent from the field with the Jazz, and 31 percent from 3-point range. There have been times when he has not known whether to shoot, or drive the basketball. There have been times where he has looked like he’s forcing his shot.
“Jae’s evolution within what we are doing, I think you are going to see it continue to improve,” Snyder said. “Any time a player is put in a new situation, it’s going to take some time for him to be comfortable. We want Jae to continue to be aggressive and we want him taking shots. He’s asked to play a versatile game, so there will be some grey areas.”
As the Jazz prepare to face the Houston Rockets on Wednesday in Game 2 of a Western Conference semifinal, they can lean on Crowder’s improvement in recent games as a source of production.
Even through his shooting struggles, Crowder’s been able to put an imprint on Utah’s postseason run. He has been a versatile, willing and rugged defender for the Jazz. He has given Utah its first true on-court enforcer since the days of Trevor Booker. He has been able to play multiple positions and is a direct link for the Jazz’ ability to play big or small lineups.
And, now, his shot is starting to fall. Crowder scored a team-high 27 points in Utah’s Game 5 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He dropped 21 points in Sunday’s Game 1 defeat to the Rockets.
In both instances, Crowder has been able to find the basket from the perimeter, making a combined 11 3-pointers. He has also done it with a heavier minutes workload.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive and stay aggressive,” Crowder said. “Ricky [Rubio] is out, so that’s a big part of our offense. Any time you are missing key players, people have to step up and do their part, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
To Snyder’s point, Crowder is recognizing his reads faster, which is leading to better play on the offensive end. Against Houston, he was quick and decisive. When an opening presented itself, Crowder put the ball on the floor and went to the basket. When he had time to shoot the basketball, there was no hesitation. The ball was in the air.
The Jazz’ coaching staff doesn’t mind that Crowder hasn’t shot the ball well. He’s done too many good things in other areas, which is why he’s playing as much as he is. But, they have wanted his reads within the offense to improve. And the recognition of when to shoot or pass is getting better, which, to no surprise, is leading to better shooting.
“Sometimes if you’re decisive and you know you’re open, you’re on balance,” Snyder said. “It involves reading the situation before you get the ball. And I think Jae’s starting to recognize whether to shoot or drive before be makes the catch.”