In the Miami Heat’s first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers, Jae Crowder played just 25.6 minutes per game. Crowder had regressed on his 3-point shooting — he only connected on 33.3 percent of his long-range attempts. Crowder also spent much of the series defending Victor Oladipo, who had a quickness advantage on the forward.
Erik Spoelstra also didn’t include Crowder in his preferred crunch-time five. Only when the Indiana Pacers hunted Tyler Herro on defense in Game 3 did Spoelstra substitute Crowder in for the 20-year-old rookie.
But here in the second round, Crowder has emerged as an invaluable piece to the Heat on both ends of the floor. His minutes are up to 33.9 per game. Spoelstra has used him as the primary defender on Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s taken offensive fouls, stripped the ball from the MVP and made life tough for Antetokounmpo. And Crowder has also defended Khris Middleton — who, credit to him, made some contested jump shots in Game 4 to lead the Bucks to victory.
On the offensive end of the court, Crowder is shooting a remarkable 43 percent from downtown on 42 total attempts. Of course, Crowder’s last made 3-pointer in Game 4 came with 4:49 left to go in the third quarter; he missed two 3s in the final five minutes of regulation and then another one in overtime. But going 6-for-12 from 3 is a great offensive performance from the 30-year-old forward.
Besides, we can’t forget about Crowder’s clutch 3-pointer with a little more than two minutes to go in Game 3.
Aside from his shooting, Crowder has also become more comfortable with the Heat’s motion offense, making the right pass to the open shooter or cutter. Crowder had three assists in Game 4 and five in Game 3. For some comparison, the former Marquette player averaged just 1.8 assists during the regular season with Miami.
Like James Posey and Shane Battier before him, Crowder is offering the Heat versatile defense and dead-eye 3-point shooting in the playoffs. He’s a big part of why Miami is up 3-1 in this series.