BEIJING -- Two games into his tenure with the Clippers, Jamal Crawford is starting to show why he might be the most important addition this summer for a team that is striving to succeed with its dynamic duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Being the only nonstarter to play more than 30 minutes in the Clippers’ 94-80 loss to the defending champion Miami Heat in China on Thursday, Crawford finished with 16 points, making him the team’s second-leading scorer behind Griffin’s 19. That came after a 19-point effort in his debut with the Clippers on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.
Coming off the bench to play more than 27 minutes in both of the first two games of the preseason has earned Crawford the trust of Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro. With the team’s third-leading scorer from last season, Mo Williams, leaving for the Utah Jazz and veteran shooting guard Chauncey Billups still nursing his injured Achilles tendon, the Clippers needed a scoring boost off the bench badly to ease the load on the shoulders of Paul and Griffin this coming season.
Checking into Thursday night’s game with 4:46 left the first quarter and his team trailing, Crawford made a three-pointer over Dwyane Wade’s extended arms in less than a minute, cutting the Heat’s lead to six.
But when new arrivals Crawford, Lamar Odom and Grant Hill were on the court at the same time, the Clippers looked sloppy in handling the ball and miscommunication led to turnovers in consecutive possessions.
“We've got to do something out here!” a frustrated Crawford shouted at Odom. After drawing a foul from Wade and making all three free throws, Crawford was able to help the Clippers keep the deficit under 20 points before halftime.
“Still lot of room for improvement,” Crawford tweeted after the game, “No Worries, it will happen!”
Playing in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,006 in downtown Beijing, the Clippers were sluggish in the first half and failed to put on a “great show” as Griffin had promised when he acknowledged an electrifying atmosphere to start the game. Down by as much as 27 points late in the second quarter, the Clippers needed a strong third quarter from Griffin to make the final score look better.
In a crowd dominated by jerseys of LeBron James and Wade, 23-year-old human resources manager Jin Feng from Beijing felt a little disappointed at not being able to see his idol, Paul, in action. Paul sat out the game because of an injured right thumb.
Dressed in a red No. 3 jersey of Paul and with his girlfriend wearing Griffin’s No. 32, Jin said he switched from being a Lakers fan into a Clippers fan after Paul joined the team last season.