ATLANTA – Jae Crowder’s left elbow was visibly swollen and discolored Thursday night as he and the Celtics prepared to take on the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.
The pain and discomfort that he was feeling, however, didn’t stop him from hitting the court and producing one of his best offensive efforts of the season.
Crowder, who injured his elbow during Sunday’s win against the New York Knicks, shot 9-of-14 from the floor Thursday night and finished with 24 points – just one point shy of his season high.
The Celtics ended up falling to the Hawks, 123-116, but the loss likely would have been a lot worse if it weren’t for Crowder’s presence and the persistent tenacity he provided throughout the game.
Coming off a difficult, blowout loss to Cleveland the night before, Crowder wanted to make an early impact in an effort to bounce back against the Hawks. He was one of Boston’s few bright spots during the first half, as he tallied 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.
“I was just aggressive from the start,” said Crowder. “I wanted to be aggressive, and probably the loss last night fueled that a little bit. I think last night I was thinking about my elbow; tonight I wasn’t. I just played.”
Crowder could have rested, like many starters on playoff-bound teams are currently doing, but he wants to fight through the injury knowing that Boston is still in the midst of a heated Eastern Conference seeding battle.
“He’s a tough guy, so he’s only going to sit out if he can’t be himself,” said Isaiah Thomas, who logged a game-high 35 points in the loss. “That’s what we love about him. And he’s going to give it his all each and every time he’s out there.”
The injury that Crowder sustained is best described as “mysterious.” Despite watching film from Sunday’s game against the Knicks, the veteran forward has been unable to pinpoint when or how the injury occurred. He only recalls looking down at his non-shooting elbow late in the third quarter to find it swollen and tingling, before being taken out of the game.
Despite the strange injury, Crowder has not missed any games, though he has it wrapped in a black padded sleeve when he plays. The sleeve was put to the test Thursday night as he took a number of hard tumbles under the basket, but he continued to stick it out in an attempt to try to rally Boston back from a 20-point deficit.
“It shows the grit he has,” said Marcus Smart, who stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, seven assists, six steals and four rebounds. “Everybody on this team has played with something wrong with them at one point in time where they could’ve sat out, but they decided to play. It shows the determination and the grit that this team has.”
Unfortunately, Boston’s grit couldn’t carry it past the Hawks Thursday night, as it dropped its second consecutive contest. Crowder says in order to snap out of their short losing spell, the C’s must come out with more authority at the start of games.
“We came out and let [Atlanta] hit us first,” he said. “We’ve been doing that for like a week now. We’ve gotten away with a couple of wins here and there, but it’s bad habits. We let it carry over (from the previous night’s loss to Cleveland) and we gotta stop that. Hopefully come next game against Charlotte we’ll hit first.”
The Celtics will look to start fresh Saturday evening at 6 p.m. when they take on the Hornets at Spectrum Center. Crowder will look to lead the charge out of the gate, and, in spite of his injured elbow, he hopes to throw the first punch and help guide Boston back into the win column.