Opening Tip: Putting the J in Jae Crowder

DALLAS – Call him the king of garbage time if you want, but there’s no denying that Jae Crowder looks like a different player.

Crowder lost 15 pounds over the summer, and by all indications, he added some range and consistency to his jumper.

Twice in the last three games, the second-year forward has hit a career high in points. He matched his rookie-best with 15 points Friday night in Houston and scored 18 in Tuesday’s win over the Lakers. In both instances, he did the bulk of his damage in the fourth quarter of lopsided games, drilling five 3s in the final frame in Houston and scoring 14 in the last dozen minutes against L.A.

“I passed up a few early in the first half,” Crowder said after going 7-of-9 from the floor and 4-of-6 from 3-point range Tuesday. “I just told myself that in the second half, if I got that open look again, I gotta let it go. My teammates had trust in me and they said the same exact thing at halftime, so I had all the confidence in the world to step into the shot.

The Mavs definitely aren’t just dismissing Crowder’s offensive outbursts because they occurred during relatively meaningless minutes. He’s 10-of-14 from 3-point range this season, a significant development for a player who shot a mediocre 32.8 percent from long range last season.

Coach Rick Carlisle said he decided to give Crowder a spot in the rotation, which came at Wayne Ellington’s expense, after seeing how well he shot the ball against the Rockets.

“That shot is really looking good, so hopefully he can keep that up,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “He steps into that shot like, uh, like me. It’s been really looking good. He’s confident with it.”

Crowder also looked pretty confident when he threw down a dunk in transition traffic in the first half. It’s the kind of athletic play he might not have been able to make last season, when he was frankly a bit pudgy by NBA small forward standards.

“It would have taken a lot of energy out of me, I know that,” Crowder said. “I probably could have done it, but it would have taken a lot of energy. But this year just feels more natural. I feel good. I feel light on my feet.”

Crowder’s motivation to lose weight was to prevent from wearing down over the course of the season and to make him a more versatile defender. He sees himself as sort of Matrix in the making, someone who can guard four positions like Shawn Marion now that he’s significantly quicker than a season ago.

The 3-point shooting might put Crowder in the rotation, but he’s determined to keep his spot with defense.