Tonight on CSN: Crawford helping to stabilize Celtics

Tonight on CSN: Crawford helping to stabilize Celtics
January 2, 2014, 7:00 am
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Mark Strotman

The Bulls face their second straight Atlantic Division foe tonight in the Boston Celtics. You can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet Plus, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Mark Schanowski and Will Perdue will preview the game. They'll also have Bulls Postgame Live (on CSN), complete with highlights, player reaction and analysis.

The Boston Celtics were supposed to be a mess this season. The organization traded head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers and future Hall-of-Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets in the offseason, unofficially ending an era that saw them win an NBA championship in 2008 and make it to another Finals in 2010.

Boston replaced Rivers with former Butler University head coach Brad Stevens and Garnett and Pierce have proved to be on the downside of their careers in Brooklyn -- both are averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and PER. So the last hurdle the Celtics had to get over was the loss of Rajon Rondo. The four-time All-Star suffered a torn ACL in January and has been sidelined since, leaving a gaping hole at point guard.

[RELATED: Back to full strength, Bulls out of excuses]

Lucky for Stevens and the Celtics, Jordan Crawford has stepped in wonderfully and helped Boston maintain its standing in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference playoff race.

In his fourth season, the natural shooting guard has shifted to the point, and the results have been impressive. He's averaging a career-best 5.4 assists and his 2.55 assist-to-turnover ratio is 20th in the NBA. He has tallied eight or more assists six times this season in 31 games after doing it seven times in 176 career games before that. Per, Crawford is averaging 10.9 assist opportunities per game, more than fellow starting point guards Trey Burke, Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight.

He has become a new player, and his scoring hasn't suffered because of it.

Much like Rondo, Crawford is able to create his own shot and is shooting a respectable 49 percent between eight and 24 feet. Crawford's 13.6 points per game aren't a career-best, but his 43 percent shooting from the field is, as his impressive 87.4 percent mark from the free throw line. The uptick in minutes have helped his numbers, but on the whole he's playing much better.

[MORE: Deng has mixed results in return to Bulls lineup]

And his efforts have helped the Celtics. They're 13-18 -- much better than anyone expected they'd be -- and are three games out of first place in the Atlantic (Toronto; 15-15). And in the putrid East, that record has them tied for sixth place. It sounds silly in early January, but the Celtics are one-half game ahead of the Bulls right now, so tonight's matchup may have playoff implications.

Catch all the action tonight on Comcast SportsNet Plus. And make sure to check out Bulls Pulse throughout the night, using #BullsTalk to join the conversation on Twitter.