Celtics forward Jae Crowder (center) was overmatched all series by the Atlanta bigs. (Mark L. Baer-USA Today Sports)
For the first 66 games of the season, Jae Crowder was the second-most important player on the Celtics.
Then he turned his right ankle against the Rockets on March 11 and wasn’t the same the rest of the way, playing with an ankle he said was really never better than 70 percent.
Crowder could never consistently get his shot to fall when Thomas was double and triple-teamed and his ankle prevented him from driving and cutting to the basket the way he did when he was healthy. He missed his first six shots and was 2-for-9 at the half. He finished 5-for-15 for 15 points in the season-ending 104-92 loss to the Hawks Thursday in Game 6.
“Yeah, it was a very tough stretch for me,” Crowder said. “But, I’m not here to make any excuses about that, it was just tough, it was a tough series for me but my teammates never stopped believing in me. I just tried to get through it…. I gave it my best, so I can sleep good knowing that I gave it my all.”
In the series, he wasn’t the same forward who was a legitimate threat when Thomas was drawing attention early in the season. And he could never get comfortable against the Atlanta front court of Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore and Al Horford.
“It will drive me to work harder for sure,” Crowder said. “It will drive me to be a different player than I am today, so we use it as motivation to move on.
“Like I just told Isaiah, we just got to keep chipping at it, keep getting better, of course its only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s when you hold that trophy up. So, until we do that, its not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working, that’s all I got to say about it.”
As for the futures of Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger and breaking up some of the chemistry on the team, Crowder will leave personnel decisions to Danny Ainge.
“That’s what sucks about it, but like Isaiah said its apart of the business, but we did build a bond with each and every guy in the locker room and it was fun,” Crowder said. “We just tried to have fun each and every night. We have a locker room that’s bonded like the way we do and have fun you never want to see it end, and it was tough to see it end.”