At some point during the Wizards' current five-game road trip, the plan here was to write about Jordan Crawford's role now that Bradley Beal is confidently stroking jumpers and John Wall is back.
No need in searching high and low for the perfect example seeing as the ideal scenario came Monday night in Washington's buzzer-beating 98-95 triumph at Portland.
Crawford's game-winning 3-pointer as the clock hit all zeroes, which led to a celebratory dog pile involving large men wearing Wizards' gear, is the highlight of all highlights. However, it's everything that led up to that one shining moment that provided the template for how this team should use the high-confidence scorer
Crawford's ideal role in the NBA is that of an always self-assured off the bench scorer who believes he's always the right man for the point-producing job. Someone that can enter a game cold and heat up quickly, provide a scuffling team offense and confidence.
After Washington scored a season-high 34 first quarter points against Portland, it tallied only 35 over the next two. Beal entered the game torching the nets from long range, but the rookie was in the midst of a rare off night this month. Wall missed six of eight shots.
Wizards' coach Randy Wittman sent Crawford out onto the court starting the final quarter. He never took the third-year guard out.
Portland's Ronnie Price sank a 3-pointer opening the fourth quarter, cutting the Wizards' lead to 69-67. Crawford countered Price's bomb with a fadeaway jumper. With the Wizards leading 77-75, Crawford outscored Portland 8-2 over the next 100 seconds, giving Washington the cushion it would need for the closing stretch.
Then came the final second, ice water in the veins dagger, then came the spontaneous celebration.
Talking to reporters about Crawford after the Wizards' fifth win in seven games, Martell Webster said, “You give the guy some room and he can do some deadly things. He’s very capable of doing that and he showed it tonight. We all have confidence in J.C. knocking down any jump shot at any time.”
In retrospect, Crawford taking the final attempt seems rather poetic. Back in training camp, when the team was already without Wall and Nene, Crawford said of his volume shooter reputation and extra responsibility, " who else is gonna shoot."
That confident quote is also why his job description comes with a specific rotation designation: reserve.
Like most coaches, Wittman values ball movement. That's not always what you get once the ball lands in Crawford's hands. He thinks...sorry, he knows he will put points on the scoreboard. With that mentality, the ball ends up sticking and not moving as Crawford searches for his next playmaking opportunity.
Most of the season, Wittman had no choice but to start Crawford and let him do his thing considering Washington's lackluster attack. Wittman himself probably thought on more than one occasion, "who else is gonna shoot." The Wizards still are the lowest scoring team in the NBA, though they are finally averaging more than 90 points per game. At 15.0 points, Crawford is still the team's leading scorer.
Following a 100-95 overtime loss to Atlanta in which Crawford generated a triple-double, Wittman said, "Jordan's going to always keep fighting. He might not always take the best shots. I might scratch my head and look to the ceiling sometimes, but I do know he's going to compete. That's who he is."
Again, that's what the coach said about a Crawford after a triple-double performance.
Now, Wittman has options. Nene is still not all the way back from his still gimpy left foot, yet he still cranks out 24-point games as he did against Portland. Monday's performance aside, Beal's played this month like a player drafted with the third overall pick. With both Wall and A.J. Price back from injuries, Wittman has distributors and now his team is scoring. Washington's three highest-scoring games of the season have come this month. Kevin Seraphin, Emeka Okafor and Webster have all increased production now that they are back in their best-suited roles.
Now, Wittman is no longer at the mercy of Crawford's whimsical ways.
However, anytime the team needs scoring punch or a shot of cool injected into its system, Wittman knows he has the right man for the job.
“That’s what we like from Jordan—his ability to come in off the bench and heat up," Wittman told reporters after the win. "Bradley struggled a little bit tonight, and to have a guy like that that can come in is huge for us.”