LOS ANGELES -- Jamal Crawford was smiling as he walked into the Los Angeles Clippers' locker room Monday night.
That's a typical pregame expression for him.
But there was a different kind of smirk on his face prior to Game 2 with the Memphis Grizzlies. One that belied a man who felt he had just been robbed earlier in the day of the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award he thought he deserved.
It's never easy to get snubbed, but there was something about being slighted for the second time in three months that somehow made it easier for Crawford to swallow.
Crawford thought he would be named to his first All-Star Game three months ago and was genuinely surprised and upset when he was overlooked. That's partly why he simply shrugged his shoulder when he found out Monday morning that New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith had been named the league's top sixth man. Crawford finished second.
"That's twice in the season," Crawford said. "It's not about what I feel, honestly, because I learned with the All-Star Game that you can only control what you can control. Whenever it's up to the coaches or media or whatever, you expect the unexpected."
Crawford's response to being snubbed, however, was not as unexpected. He came off the bench and did what he has done all season. He scored 13 points in his first 12 minutes on the floor, going 6-of-6 from the field and recording two steals. He would finish with 15 points and three steals as the Clippers defeated the Grizzlies 93-91 to take a 2-0 series lead.
After the game, Crawford walked into the news conference room for the first time this season. Usually the podium is reserved for Vinny Del Negro, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin after games. But there was Crawford walking in with his 2-year-old son, J.J., by his side, once again flashing a smile.
"It's more about winning than anything," Crawford said. "I know a lot of people say go out there and prove why you should win this or that, but I feel I've been proving it all season. So it's not about that. You just want to go out and win. Tonight my teammates told me to go out there and be aggressive."
Crawford's production in the second half took a hit largely because the Grizzlies adjusted their coverage, putting Tony Allen on him, as well as Tayshaun Prince at times. The adjustments, however, opened things up in the second half for other players, including Paul, who had 19 of his 24 points in the second half, including the game-winner.
"The first half I was really trying to be aggressive, and obviously in the second half they paid more attention to me," Crawford said. "I think that's what's so special about this team. In the first quarter Blake had it going, in the second quarter I had it going, and in the third and fourth Chris had it going.
"When we're going like that, it's tough for any team to deal with."
"Grant [Hill] and I were talking after shootaround, and we were talking about the sixth-man thing because it was on 'SportsCenter,' and Grant turned to me and said, 'Watch, Jamal is going to have a big night. He's going to have a big night,'" Griffin said. "I said, 'I hope you're right.' And he was."
Crawford ranked third in the NBA this season in fourth-quarter scoring, behind Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. He led the league in 20-point games off the bench and was second in the league in fourth-quarter plus-minus, finishing just behind LeBron James. He also was atop all NBA reserves in scoring per 26 minutes and in simple plus-minus.
Unlike some players who pretend like they don't know these stats, Crawford knows each one. He knows this because he interacts with most of his 283,000 followers on Twitter, who are never shy about telling him why he should have been an All-Star and the sixth man of the year winner this season.
"It would have been great," Crawford said, "but I feel like we have the best bench in the NBA. I see myself and J.R. -- even though people look at us as scorers off the bench -- I see us in different roles. He's the second guy over there. After Carmelo [Anthony], he's taking 19, 20 shots, and they need that from him."
"For us, we have the best bench and I feel like I'm just a piece of that," he said. "We have [Eric] Bledsoe. We have Willie [Green]. We have Matt [Barnes]. We have Lamar [Odom], who was a sixth-man winner, as well. We have Ronny [Turiaf]. We have some really good guys who are capable. We all have to share, so it's a bit of a different situation."
Crawford won the sixth man of the year award in 2010 with the Atlanta Hawks, but struggled in his lone season with the Portland Trail Blazers last season. In L.A., he is the engine that drives the Clippers' high-powered bench, which ranked in the top four in every statistical category, including leading the league in minutes, rebounds, steals and blocks.
It was the Clippers' bench that once again helped to push their lead to 12 in the fourth quarter of Game 2 before the starters came back into the game against Memphis.
Afterward, as he kissed the top of his son's head throughout the postgame news conference and watched as Griffin and Paul answered questions about the win, it was hard for Crawford not to smile again, regardless of his personal accomplishments this season.
"You want to win a championship," Crawford said. "To be perfectly, perfectly honest, coming in to the season winning the sixth man or All-Star wasn't on my radar.
"It was more just kind of getting my respect back because people thought I had lost a step going to Portland, and that was a heck of a year. And it motivated me to be ready coming in to this year."