This play is from the Boston game on November 18th, and as soon as it happened I had wanted to talk about it. Unfortunately by the time I got the video/screen shots together Jamal had already been traded. So with the Warriors coming into town on Sunday, I’ve decided to publish it.
Knicks at Boston, 1:15 2nd quarter 11/18/2008
On this play Jamal Crawford (denoted by “J”) is guarding Ray Allen (denoted by the brown circle). Behind him in the post is Wilson Chandler (denoted by “W”) on Leon Powe. Powe comes around to set a pick on Crawford.
Powe sets the pick & Crawford gets swallowed by it. Chandler is forced to switch and guard Allen. At the free throw line is Zach Randolph who sees the switch and makes the decision to move back to cover Powe. Zach Randolph’s current assignment is Big Baby Davis who is at the top of the key.
With Zach Randolph dropping back to cover Powe, Jamal Crawford is left guarding nobody. He tries to get back to his man Ray Allen, but Crawford has a lot of ground to makeup. However due to Randolph’s switch Big Baby is free to set a pick on Chandler. Look at him in this photo, he looks like an offensive lineman dropping back for pass coverage.
Chandler is unable to get around Big Baby and Allen is free. What should Crawford do in this situation? He should head under the screen and across the court to the free throw line to cut off Allen from having a wide open look at the basket. (Crawford’s suggested route is shown by the arrow.)
Notice that none of the other Knicks are in a position to help. Chandler is stuck with Big Baby, and if any of the other Knicks on the strong side help, the Celtics are either going to have an easy bucket in the paint or a wide open three.
So what does Crawford do?
He stays on the weak side and lazily heads to the baseline. It’s not as obvious in the photos, but if you watch the video, he just gives up on the play. It’s like there’s an invisible barrier that prevents him from crossing over the paint to the strong side. Allen drains a wide open jumper at the free throw line for an easy 2 points.
Look at a comparison between where Crawford should have gone & where he actually went.
Who is he attempting to guard? Powe is the closest person & he’s taken by Randolph. Does Crawford expect to guard Powe 4 feet from the hoop? And if so Randolph is the furthest from the ball at this time in the play.
Looking back at the play it all begins with Crawford’s inability to deal with the pick by Powe. He neither goes over or under it, but instead runs into it. If I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt I could say that perhaps Chandler didn’t call it out & Crawford was unaware. Earlier this year the Knicks Blog was keeping track of which guards go over/under screens. Of the 40 picks that were set on Crawford, he managed to go over only on 4 of them. Compare to Duhon (52 of 59) and Robinson (8 of 42), and it’s clear that the pick & roll is a major weakness with Crawford. Additionally this is something Knick fans, myself included, have noticed for years.
But failing to defend the pick & roll isn’t Crawford’s only folly. He makes things worse by just giving up on the play. Jamal makes no attempt to challenge Allen after Chandler gets picked. He just leaves Ray Allen wide open for an easy jumper. It’s Crawford’s lack of effort in multiple areas that has made him a poor defender over the course of his career.
[BTW I'd like to give mad props to Gian of SevenSecondsOrMess. I can't tell how time consuming this activity was, and I didn't even do a full video with cool graphics and a voice over.]