Clippers’ Jamal Crawford struggles through tough stretch

Clippers guard Jamal Crawford goes up for a shot as Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic and guard Gary Harris converge on Dec. 26.

Clippers guard Jamal Crawford goes up for a shot as Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic and guard Gary Harris converge on Dec. 26.

(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Jamal Crawford got plenty of playing time on the last trip — 29 minutes at New Orleans on Wednesday night, 30 minutes at Houston on Friday night and 31 minutes at Oklahoma City on Saturday night — but his production wasn’t anything close to what the Clippers expect from their veteran guard.

Crawford surpassed the 20-point mark in three straight games from Dec. 23- 26, averaging 24.0 points on 50% field-goal shooting (28 of 56) and 40% three-point shooting (six of 15). He had a season-high 26 points and six assists against Dallas on Dec. 23.

But after making two of four shots at New Orleans, Crawford collided with a Pelicans player, fell awkwardly and hit his right knee on the floor, and for a while afterward he didn’t look like himself. He scored seven against New Orleans, five against Houston and none against Oklahoma City, logging the most time he has ever played in a game without scoring.


A career 41% shooter over 17 NBA seasons, Crawford made only five of 29 shots (17.2%) and one of nine three-point attempts on the three-game trip.

“I banged my knee, but I’m out there,” Crawford said before Monday night’s game, “so there’s no excuses from me.”

With guard J.J. Redick (sore left hamstring) missing the New Orleans game, point guard Chris Paul (sore left hamstring) missing the Houston and Oklahoma City games and the Clippers mired in a losing streak (six games, before a victory Monday), did Crawford feel obligated to push through the injury?

“We’re trying to win, more than anything,” he said. “I think once we get that feeling of winning back, everything will go back to normal.”

Crawford bounced back with 18 points in the Clippers’ 109-98 win over Phoe-nix.

Coach Doc Rivers hoped to rest Crawford more during a December stretch in which the Clippers played seven games in 10 days, but “we literally didn’t have enough players to do it,” he said. Opponents have also stifled Crawford, to a degree.

“He’s not getting a lot of shots,” Rivers said. “What it tells you is that when some of your key guys are out, they can key on other guys, and right now, teams are keying on our guards. They’ve decided if they can stop our guards, they want to see us score in another way, and I would do the same thing.”

Cautious approach

Paul sat out for the sixth time in seven games Monday night, and Rivers made it clear that he won’t risk further injury to Paul’s hamstring. “He’s not playing until he’s 100%,” Rivers said. “He’s getting better, but we’re going to take our time.”

After missing three games, Paul played 30 minutes at New Orleans, scoring 21 points with six assists. Rivers said Paul “was 100%” for the Pelicans game and didn’t reinjure the knee.

“What we didn’t like is he had fatigue, a lot of fatigue, that next day,” Rivers said. “He was sore, and that shouldn’t happen. Once we found that out, we decided, though he feels good, we’re gonna wait even longer.

“He didn’t take it great, but he’s a smart kid. Once you sit him down and talk to him about why — because he really thought he’d play in the Houston game — he’s been very good about it.”


Rivers said forward Blake Griffin, who is two weeks into his recovery from right-knee surgery, has “been out on the floor, but I can’t tell you what he’s actually doing, so I don’t know. I’m sure he’s shooting free throws.” Griffin, who has a 21.2-point average, is expected to be out until late January. … Did Rivers take any positives from the 0-3 trip? “A good restaurant in Houston,” he said. “It was terrific. The wine was great. I saw Ralph [Lawler, Clippers broadcaster] there.”

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna