"I just tried to get to my comfort zone, my sweet spot," [Jamal Crawford] said. "I felt pretty good getting there. I thought I got a good look, and it just happened to go down for me."
That sounds insane; well, it is insane. But if you don't know that Jamal Crawford is never so comfortable as when he's hoisting a contested triple from Asgard ...
Or that he earnestly believes that his "sweet spot" is anywhere he can launch a jump shot that most reasonable observers are all but sure has no prayer of finding the bottom of the net ...
Or that his definition of "a good look" varies so alarmingly from the conventional understanding of the phrase as to keep his own coaches awake most nights ...
Then you mustn't have watched many of the games Jamal Crawford has played in his 10-year NBA career. Which means it probably struck you as very surprising that he made this shot. How exciting for you!
Crawford's ludicrous banker gave his Atlanta Hawks a four-point lead over the visiting Orlando Magic, providing the eventual margin of victory in an 88-84 win at Philips Arena on Friday night. Crawford, the league's Sixth Man of the Year last season, came off the bench with a game-high 23 points on 7-for-19 shooting, including 12 fourth-quarter points that helped the fifth-seeded Hawks hold on to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven first-round Eastern Conference playoff series with the fourth-seeded Magic.
The deep heave — set up by two excellent Atlanta plays on the offensive and defensive ends, as ably described by NBA Playbook's Sebastian Pruiti — was pegged by the AJC's Cunningham as coming from 31 feet out. That's an admirable bit of myth-making, but is simply untrue; there was not a prostrate Roy Hibbert's worth of distance between the top of the arc and the point of Crawford's release.
On the other hand, the official play-by-play recap lists the shot as a 26-foot make, which actually seems a little too short; freezing the video as the shot goes up, there's definitely some space between defender Jameer Nelson and the line in and between Nelson and Crawford.
It is, therefore, my judgment that the attempt came from approximately 27 feet, 9 inches away from the basket; for those of you more comfortable with pop-cultural units of measure, this places roughly 84.2 percent of a prostrate Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi between Crawford and the edge of the arc. That seems like a reasonable percentage of Snooki to me.
The game-sealer isn't the full story of the game, of course. It was a physical, bruising contest throughout, exemplified in the battle between Orlando star Dwight Howard and Atlanta reserve center Zaza Pachulia, which turned testy late.
After Pachulia delivered a hard foul on a Howard drive to the basket, the Magic center swung his arm, which Zaza didn't take too kindly, leading to a fourth-quarter altercation between Pachulia and Magic swingman Jason Richardson that resulted in both players being ejected. The league will review the incident, which could leave both players on the sidelines serving a one-game suspension for Game 4. Howard also picked up his second technical foul of the postseason on the play.
For the second time in the series, Atlanta turned in an above-average performance in terms of offensive efficiency, posting 107.3 per 100 possessions in the win (a figure significantly helped by bad shots like Crawford's hot-garbage final triple actually going in). In a slow affair like Game 3, which featured just 82 possessions, making the most out of your trips down the court is vital, and while Atlanta's shooting wasn't anything to write home about — the Hawks went just 34-for-81 (42 percent) from the floor — they've been able to penetrate and execute just well enough to gain and maintain an advantage in this series. Bret LaGree put it well in Hoopinion's Game 3 recap: "You don't have to play well to win a playoff series if you make (and let) the other team play worse."
On the other sideline, Orlando's offensive struggles continued. They posted a below-average offensive efficiency mark for the third straight game, with everyone not named Dwight Howard combining to shoot 23-for-59 (38.9 percent) from the field. And while the Magic made eight 3-pointers on Friday, they took 28 of them, dropping their long-distance mark for the series to just 19-for-73 (26 percent); as Jeff Fogle noted at Hoopdata, "If Orlando isn't making treys, they're not much of a team." The worrying trend has Evan Dunlap at Orlando Pinstriped Post finding it difficult to find optimism going forward, and me finding it difficult to blame him.
The numbers tell the tale, but Crawford's make will remain the enduring image of this game. Coming off the dribble with that lilting back-and-forth shake on Nelson, rising and firing with a reckless chuck that somehow finds salvation ... all things considered, this was one of the more Jamal Crawford shots in recent memory.
"I didn't call bank. I think the bank's closed right now," quipped Crawford, who scored 18 of his 23 points after halftime.
Luckily for the Hawks, it stayed open just long enough. Game 4 tips off in Atlanta at 7 p.m. on Sunday.
International readers ("Int'l read'rs"): If the clip above isn't rocking for you, please feel free to peruse the banker elsewhere, thanks to our friends at the National Basketball Association.