For one shining night when the Nets upset the Cavaliers on Wednesday, Allen Crabbe put the truth in advertising, scoring 19 points, including 4-for-10 shooting from three-point range, earning praise from none other than LeBron James for hitting contested threes and just generally showing why the Nets traded for him last summer.
And then there was Crabbe’s inexplicable boxscore line — 0 points, 0-for-2 shooting — in a blowout loss to the Knicks when the Nets’ offense went south on Friday. Crabbe went from making a plus-15 impact against the Cavs to minus-9 against the Knicks.
What happened? “I don’t know,” Crabbe said after Saturday’s practice. “I guess I’ve got to be more active in the offense. Sometimes, when they take certain things away, I have to find easier ways to get the ball or get good, clean looks. Even just get something easy to see the ball go through the hoop.”
Coach Kenny Atkinson said the Knicks emphasized getting in Crabbe’s face at the three-point arc after his performance against the Cavs. “You could tell their big was up a little higher when I’m coming off of those screens, causing me to throw back to a teammate and let them make a play,” Crabbe said. “I did notice.”
Against the Cavs, Crabbe was an effective counter to Kyle Korver, who had 22 points, including 5-for-11 three-point shooting. It was a matchup of the No. 1 three-point shooter in the NBA last season (Kor ver) and the No. 2 (Crabbe). On Sunday night at Barclays Center, the Nets (3-3) will face another great perimeter threat in the Nuggets’ Gary Harris, who ranked eighth in three-point percentage last season and forms a dynamic combination with center Nikola Jokic.
Crabbe smiled when asked if he pays attention to matchups with the likes of shooters such as Korver and Harris. “Not really,” he said. “Last year, I didn’t even know what I was shooting until somebody brought it to my attention. You’ve got a really good player in Gary Harris. I’ll try to limit him from doing what he does best and try to make it difficult for him.”
The question is whether the Nets will do a better job of keeping Crabbe involved in the offense than they did against the Knicks. For now, he is coming off the bench because of a minutes restriction related to a preseason ankle injury. When Crabbe is at full speed, Atkinson might have to consider whether to stick with Caris LeVert at the starting shooting guard because of his defense and hope his poor three-point shooting (19.2 percent) improves, or to start Crabbe for his offense.
“I don’t think the starting lineup is cemented for the rest of the year,” Atkinson said. “I think we’ll be constantly looking at it, especially this early in the season. We like Caris’ defense to start, but we also understand that Allen gives us the shooting piece. We’re still in the evaluation stages.”
When he was in Portland, Crabbe was stuck in a bench role behind prolific scorers Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. But the Nets brought him in as their highest-paid player at $19 million annually to be a difference-maker. Crabbe said he’s adapting to a larger role and added that it might require a more aggressive approach.
“Sometimes I do tend to stand around and wait for the ball to come,” Crabbe said. “On nights like that, I have to find other ways, even if it’s a simple back-cut . . . It’s a different opportunity for me. Roles have changed, and I have to realize that. I can’t have nights where I only get two shot attempts. It’s me going to the film and sitting down with the coaches and figuring out other ways to create open shots.”