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OAKLAND – Jordan Crawford stood before the assembled media late Tuesday night as if he were facing a firing squad. He squirmed. He scanned the room. He kept his answers flat, brief and unrevealing.
Clearly uncomfortable, he never once mentioned his nickname: "Sizzle."
But this was one night when the backup shooting guard probably should have dropped it on local media. Crawford's dazzling shooting display fueled a second-quarter run that scorched the Mavericks in a 108-85 Warriors victory.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Bench nets 59, Warriors crush Mavericks]
Crawford ended with first quarter with a buzzer-beating 21-foot jumper, and then scored the first three baskets of the second quarter. He made his first six shots, scoring 12 points in the quarter. He finished with a game-high 19.
"He was great," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "I don't think that enough credit has been given to him because we went out and got Steve Blake. And I've seen guys fold up the tent, hold their head down and not be ready. He's been a professional. He has a gift to score the basketball."
Dallas took an early 16-8 lead, prompting Jackson to call a timeout, after which the Warriors reeled off a 37-11 run punctuated by a Crawford fadeaway that yielded a 45-27 lead 6:58 before halftime.
The Mavericks were cooked, never getting closer than nine (55-46) after that.
Jackson's mention of Blake is relevant because his arrival from the Lakers – five weeks after Crawford came over from the Celtics – coincided with the solidifying of the second unit. Blake took over the point, Crawford moved over to off-guard and the bench has been terrific ever since.
"The addition of Steve Blake frees up JC to do what he does," forward David Lee said. "That's come off the screens and (isolation plays) on the wings and score. The way Jermaine (O'Neal) and Draymond (Green) are playing has been incredible as well."
The Warriors (41-24) got 59 points from their reserves, partly because they were productive and partly because the game became so one-sided they got nearly as much playing time as the starters.
"It’s huge," reserve forward Harrison Barnes said of the unit's output. "You look at last year, when we had Steph playing 45 minutes, Klay playing a ton of minutes. It's hard to do that all season long. Now that our second unit is playing better, we can give the starters some relief and balance it out."
That balance has been crucial to the Warriors heating up since the All-Star break. They've won 10 of 12 since then, the last five in a row.
"It's good," Crawford said. "It's fun. To be in a streak like this heading into the playoffs and to move up the standings, it brings the competitive spirit out in everybody."
When I asked Crawford if he considered, even for a minute, of disclosing his semi-secret nickname, he broke into a broad grin.
"Naw, man," he said. "I can't do that. Then I'd have to explain."
I beg to differ. Crawford's game, on this night, was all the explanation needed.
THE GOOD: Crawford's torrid shooting brought the Oracle Arena crowd to its feet and his teammates out of their seats. He made his first six and finished 8-of-12.
Andrew Bogut renewed acquaintances with the basket. After averaging 4.8 points over the previous five games, the center finished with an efficient 15. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Andre Iguodala put on a spectacular seven-second show, blocking Shawn Marion's shot on one end and racing in for a follow slam-dunk on the other. A perfect highlight clip, no editing needed.
Lee did a nice job on Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
THE BAD: Not much to see here, other than 19 Warriors turnovers, 11 of which were committed by Thompson (five), Curry (three) and Blake (three).
THE TAKE: The Warriors surely understood the importance of this game, at home, against a playoff-caliber opponent, one night before facing the Pacific-Division-leading Clippers in Los Angeles. After a mediocre six minutes, they took off. They did what contenders must do, clamping down on defense, smothering a quality club. Yes, sizzle, is a fair description for Crawford's game. It also applied to his teammates.