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Crowd(er) pleaser: Newcomer provides energy, hustle off Boston bench

Boston Celtics backup Jae Crowder delivers a dunk against the Brooklyn Nets. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez took a couple of steps toward midcourt as Joe Johnson's errant pass skipped away but quickly pulled up, seemingly convinced that it would simply roll harmlessly out of bounds on the opposite end. Boston Celtics backup swingman Jae Crowder wasn't nearly as convinced.

Despite being about 10 feet behind Lopez at the start of the sequence, Crowder went full sprint down the middle of the floor, managed to corral the loose ball near the top of the charge circle beneath the basket and was fouled from behind to earn two free throws.

Crowder's hustle not only exemplified the sort of energy he's brought to Boston's second unit since being acquired last month in the deal that sent Rajon Rondo to Dallas, but highlighted Boston's gritty performance during Wednesday's 89-81 triumph over the Nets at the Barclays Center.

On a night in which Boston didn't always have it going offensively -- shooting just 39.8 percent overall, including 27.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc -- and fell behind by double digits in the first quarter, the Celtics rallied largely on defense and hustle.

Over the final 32 minutes of Wednesday's game, the Celtics limited the Nets to 50 points on 38 percent shooting and kept Brooklyn at arm's length late in the fourth quarter while snapping a three-game losing streak at the start of a three-game road trip.

Crowder's effort was infectious. Despite a relatively quiet night, Jared Sullinger went to the floor chasing a fourth-quarter offensive rebound, managed to call timeout with less than 3 ½ minutes to play and might have squashed Brooklyn's last hope for a rally.

Crowder finished with 6 points on 2-of-7 shooting with 5 rebounds (3 on the offensive end) and 2 steals over 15 minutes. He was plus-9 in plus/minus, the second-best mark on the team behind only Tyler Zeller (plus-12 over 31:24).

Here's our favorite stat on Crowder for the night: According to the league's player tracking data, Crowder averaged a speed of 4.49 miles per hour during his time on the court. That's an insane number when you consider that starting swingman Jeff Green moved at a team-low 3.88 miles per hour and the league average appears to be closer to 4.2 miles per hour. Crowder goes full tilt when he's on the floor.

We noted in the aftermath of the Rondo trade that Crowder might be the only player acquired from Dallas that has a long-term future in Boston. The 24-year-old should be back next season at bargain dollars and there's an awful lot to like about his game and his potential.

Crowder is averaging 6.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals over 16 minutes per game in nine appearances with Boston. But the numbers that really leap off the page are the team's advanced metrics when Crowder is on the court.

The Celtics own an offensive rating of 111.5 with Crowder, that's the best on the team among regulars (and 9.3 points better than the next-best mark on the team with Kelly Olynyk at 102.2 since the Rondo trade). The team's defensive rating is 101.1 with Crowder, meaning the team's net differential is plus-10.4 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. Olynyk is the only other regular in the positive at plus-2.4 since the Rondo swap.

Crowder quickly has emerged as the go-to option at backup swingman, particularly with Evan Turner elevating to starting point guard recently. Crowder has really given Boston's second unit a nice jolt the last six games, scoring in double figures in four of them.

Crowder struggled with his perimeter shooting when he first arrived in Boston (he's shooting only 21.1 percent from deep with the C's) and he missed a couple of close-range chances on Wednesday. But the energy and defensive physicality that he brings clearly have helped him carve out a role.

On Wednesday night, Crowder was the only one of the Dallas acquisitions to touch the floor. Brandan Wright was a healthy DNP -- though coach Brad Stevens made sure to stress after the game that he desires to find playing time for Wright in an overcrowded frontcourt -- while Jameer Nelson was on the inactive list despite being healthy enough to return from the ankle soreness that kept him out of two games.

The Celtics were out-hustled and outplayed during Monday's loss to Charlotte, and Crowder has consistently provided the energy this team has lacked as a group at times this season. There's plenty of room for development on both ends of the floor, but Crowder has only further entrenched himself in Boston's competitive rotation because of his effort level.