So what's missing? Jae Crowder. If Isaiah Thomas is the heart of this team, then Jae Crowder is the soul. He's an unexplainable force that you don't totally understand, but you know damn well when it's not there. And these Celtics the last two nights were soulless. Crowder is the glue. The defensive presence doing a lot more than you think on offense.
Real Talk: Jae Crowder is clearly the #Celtics MVP. Defensive versatility and 2nd most consistent scored. 5yr/$35M is Top 5 contract in NBA
That's high praise. So how are the Celtics going to try to deal with his absence? So far, they've turned to Marcus Smart. It hasn't gone great.
While Marcus Smart has a promising future, the gap between him and Crowder on the offensive end is vast. Crowder can reliably knock down threes and get baskets in transition, Smart is 1-12 from three in the last two games and was held to a single field goal against the Thunder. On defense, Smart can't guard the same guys Crowder can. Smart's a tremendous defender, but he's only so tall. Kevin Durant and Paul George are too long for the second year man to handle over the course of a full game. For a few possessions or in switches, sure, but not every time down the floor. Crowder can bang with the league's elite 3s and 4s and until you see the Celtics try to defend without Crowder, you can't appreciate how big a difference they guy makes.
Without Crowder, the Celtics need Jonas Jerebko's defensive versatility and Kelly Olynyk back to full strength to keep the second unit humming. The starters won't be the same without Crowder, but the bench and the Celtics depth can still be advantage in the games going forward. If Jerebko and Olynyk aren't able to play to their full potential, it could be a long couple weeks for a Celtics team trying to lock down home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Get well soon, Jae.