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Clippers' Jamal Crawford is at mission control in playoff opener

Clippers sixth-man award candidate Jamal Crawford goes silent on Twitter, except to say he's '#onamission,' but speaks loudly on court in 112-91 rout of Memphis.

April 21, 2013|By Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times
  • Clippers guard Jamal Crawford is helped by teammate after getting fouled while making a three-point shot in the first half Saturday night.
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford is helped by teammate after getting fouled… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

You'll have to forgive the nicest guy in the NBA if he ignores your complimentary tweets for several weeks.

Jamal Crawford is not being rude. He is, to put it in his words, "#onamission."

The Clippers guard has vowed to stay off Twitter during the playoffs, apologizing to his roughly 279,600 followers with a 140-character missive on the eve of his team's series opener against the Memphis Grizzlies.

"Anything worth having is worth working hard for, thank you guys for all the support," Crawford tweeted Friday. "Holla after this journey is over. #ClipperNation."

It's a voyage that could last well into June the way things developed Saturday night at Staples Center during the Clippers' 112-91 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series.

Crawford showed flashes of the instant offense that could spark a deep playoff run, even on an uncharacteristically off shooting night.

He finished with 13 points while making five of 12 shots, none more extraordinary than the high-arching three-pointer from the corner late in the first quarter that turned into a four-point play.

Memphis guard Tony Allen knocked him over on the shot, Crawford landing at the foot of the Clippers bench. He got up to make the free throw and give his team a four-point lead.

It's what Crawford does best, given that he holds the NBA record with 37 four-point plays in his career.

"It's weird because your first shot of the playoffs, you don't think that would be the ideal shot" for a four-point play, Crawford said. "But it happened and I just tried to focus on making it after I get hit."

This is a time of year when Crawford is typically already thinking about the next season.

In 12 previous NBA seasons, he has made the playoffs only twice. He has never survived the conference semifinals, losing in that round twice as a member of the Atlanta Hawks.

So it's understandable if every jumper and pass these days is a little more precious to the 33-year-old.

He had plenty to savor in the second quarter, making a pair of 18-foot jumpers and a nine-foot floater to help the Clippers take a 57-51 halftime lead.

It's widely believed that the sixth-man-of-the-year award is a two-man race between Crawford and the New York Knicks' J.R. Smith, who closed the regular season with a string of superlative performances and averaged 18.1 points per game to Crawford's 16.5.

But a compelling case could also be made for Crawford, who won the award during the 2009-10 season with the Hawks. He finished this season third in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, trailing only the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, and was a more efficient scorer than Smith, averaging 20.3 points per 36 minutes compared to Smith's 19.4 points.

Crawford, whose Twitter handle is @JCrossover because of his unstoppable crossover dribble, also could go by another nickname: Mr. Clutch. He made an astounding 55.3% of his three-point shots in the fourth quarter during the regular season.

When his shooting touch abandoned him late in the game Saturday — he missed his first three shots in the fourth quarter — Crawford deftly found Matt Barnes underneath the basket for a reverse layup that gave the Clippers an 83-76 lead.

It certainly beats what Crawford was doing last April, when he sat out the playoffs after a disappointing season with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Now he's here and he wants to stay.

That's why he followed his apology to his followers with a final three-word hashtag tweet: "#onamission."

"Twitter is shut down until this journey is over with," Crawford said. "I really believe in our team, I feel like we'll have a long run. It demands 200% focus. I don't want to get sidetracked."

Is it hard for Crawford to ignore his followers?

"Yeah," he said. "I mean, I'm addicted to it. I love my followers. I interact with them as much as anyone, I believe, and for them I think it will be tough. But if they want some answers, they can go through some of my old tweets."

There will be plenty of new memories to discuss soon enough.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

twitter.com/latbbolch

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