Jamal Crawford was primarily a starter in his four-plus years with the New York Knicks, but like every other season of his NBA career, those didn't end with a trip to the playoffs.He'd like to think his first season with the Atlanta Hawks - and his role as a high-scoring reserve - will end that drought.
Crawford has given the Hawks a major boost off the bench, and he'll look to lead them to a fourth win in five games Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden against his struggling former team.
No current NBA player has gone longer without appearing in the postseason than Crawford, who's averaged 15.2 points in 604 games over his 10-year career.
The Knicks (1-7) didn't come close to making the playoffs with Crawford there, and the high-volume shooter was a popular scapegoat for the franchise's struggles. He averaged 17.6 points but shot 40.7 percent, starting 221 of his 299 games in New York, and was shipped to Golden State on Nov. 18 for Al Harrington.
The Warriors missed out on the playoffs last season as well, but a draft-day trade to the Hawks (5-2) has done wonders for Crawford. He's averaged 18.1 points in 29.9 minutes a game, making him the second-most productive reserve in the Eastern Conference behind the player for whom he was traded.
But while Harrington, scoring 19.7 per game as a sixth man, has done little to help New York win, Crawford's made a big impact on Atlanta. He's the team's second-leading scorer behind Joe Johnson and has averaged 22.8 points on 51.7 percent shooting over his last four games, scoring a team-high 25 in Saturday's 125-100 win over Denver.
"It's kind of cool sitting there now. I get a chance to figure out how I can help the team, whether that's coming off setting people up or coming off being aggressive and scoring," said Crawford, who had 21 points Nov. 29 in his return to MSG with the Warriors. "You kind of get a chance to watch the game, see the tempo, see the rhythm and try to come in after that."
Saturday's performance helped the Hawks bounce back from a rough road effort one night earlier, as they were outrebounded 56-35 in a 103-82 loss to Charlotte.
"It's a big statement," said forward Josh Smith, among the league leaders with 2.9 blocks per game. "It just shows that we don't dwell on losses, and we look forward to the next game."
The Knicks don't appear in any better shape to end their five-season playoff drought, and one of the league's worst defenses has again been the culprit. New York let up a conference-high 107.8 points per game in 2008-09 and has allowed 108.4 this season.
The Knicks' most recent defensive effort was among their best, but it still wasn't enough to win. Down 16 late in the third quarter to Utah on Monday, Toney Douglas nearly rallied New York with 15 second-half points, but the Jazz held on for a 95-93 victory.
"I thought we tried," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We had energy and we were active."
Douglas missed a potential tying shot just before the buzzer, and the rookie guard finished with 21 points off the bench after scoring 16 in a 102-87 loss at Milwaukee on Saturday.
The Knicks took two of three from Atlanta last season, winning both at MSG.
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