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Jae Crowder is the unsung hero of game 1 between Suns and Pelicans

Despite his near-empty offensive performance in the first game, Crowder played elite defense for the Phoenix Suns

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

If any fan, analyst, or hater looks at the box score for game one between the Phoenix Suns and the New Orleans Pelicans, they might notice the lone starter among both teams who scored just one point over his 28 minutes.

Suns forward Jae Crowder shot 0-4 from three, missed one of his two free throws, and tallied just one of each point, rebound, assist, and block.

He was also +11, second-highest in the game, over his 28 minutes. That positive impact came on the defensive end, where he earns his money in this league.

Although he had defensive numbers like forcing New Orleans to shoot 6-13 as primary defender (0-2 from three) that aren’t as audacious as the same numbers for Mikal Bridges (2-13) or Deandre Ayton (7-33), Crowder finished the game with that +11 mark. While sometimes these plus-minus marks can be a little finicky, there’s a lot of concrete evidence to verify it.

For example, Crowder came out of the game at the 4:52 mark in the third quarter, at which point the Suns and Pels were tied so far in the quarter. Over the following 3:23, the Pels were +11 against a lineup that included Devin Booker, Bridges, Ayton, Cam Payne, and Cam Johnson.

That was the late third quarter run that left many Suns fans a lot more nervous than they’d like to be at that point in the game, especially given how well the first half went.

Diving into the tape, Crowder’s disruption of all sorts of actions was clear.

Especially in the first quarter, he spent a lot of time trying to mess up Brandon Ingram in any way he can, which is no small task. Reggie Miller referred to Ingram as one of the premiere scorers in the league during the broadcast which might be a bit of a stretch for me to say, it does a good job illustrating the difficult assignment.

Crowder had a lot of success against Ingram, taking smart angles and providing physicality:

But sometimes better offense can beat good defense:

Throughout the game, as New Orleans head coach Willie Green schemed up these tougher looks for Crowder defensively that involved more passes and more times where Crowder needed to switch or go around screens, Crowder was still finding ways to be at least a little disruptive.

He also did exceptional work against the Pels’ true perimeter threat, CJ McCollum:

Game 1 Crowder is not who he is offensively. He’s a 36.9% three-point shooter on 5.9 attempts during his Phoenix career (127 games). This will probably be the only game all playoffs with him scoring just one point. But it’s important for fans to know, understand, and appreciate the value that he brings even on nights that the shot isn’t there.

This is a Suns team worth appreciating at all levels. If they do win the title, Crowder will be a big reason why, so I’m just trying to spread the good word making sure BOSSMAN99 is appreciated.

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