Statistics show that there are better guards to give the ball to with the game on the line than the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul.
We doubt many coaches would agree, however, after his performances this season in the fourth quarter. In our Saturday Smack we called him the most clutch player in the league after dropping a dozen in the fourth against Golden State, and we didn’t hear many who have argued otherwise. He’s built off his eye-opening series with New Orleans against Los Angeles in last year’s playoff first round, when he was the most efficient player in the playoffs.
You might think with a more talented team as a Clipper than a Hornet, Paul wouldn’t have to be the default option late in the game. Instead, his workload increases in the fourth, where he’s taken more field goals than any other and assists on fewer shots because of it.
Still, it’s difficult to find a compelling reason to take the ball out of his hands.
This season he shoots better in the fourth than any other at 51 percent, and has his second-highest three-point percentage (36 percent). Stats by basketball-reference.com have him shooting 47 percent in the fourth when the score is within five points (He’s shooting 48 percent this season, overall).
Per 48 minutes of clutch time, 82games.com stats show his shooting percentage is just 42 percent, and yet he averages 40.6 points in those 48 minutes of clutch — fifth best behind Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. Not measured is his will to win, which is arguably the best the Clippers have had since they moved from San Diego. He showed it again against Golden State on Saturday.
One of his most notable performances is going to get overlooked because it was against the flat-lining Blazers. Back on Feb. 16 Paul, after missing every shot he took through three quarters and Portland up 18, got 13 points in the final frame, including a crucial J in the final minute.
He’s looked more like Indiana Jones at times, pulling the Clips out from under a crushing loss just in time.
If you haven’t been persuaded yet, hit the jump to watch video evidence of Paul’s five-best late-game heroics this season.
March 30 vs. Portland: Paul’s game-winning bucket on J.J. Hickson finished his 20-point, 14-assist night and ended a crazy game. He was 3-of-4 in the fourth and he continued going right through the lane, with not one attempt coming outside of 15 feet. Normally I would wonder why Raymond Felton wasn’t checking Paul in this moment but if you’ve followed Portland’s season you can tell why they were happier Hickson — who’d been on the roster all of five games — had the try.Subscribe to UPROXX
April 11 vs. Oklahoma City: His layup with 8.8 left gave the Clippers the winning hoop in a 5-on-1 situation. Every Thunder defender had his eyes on Paul, and two of them, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha, are actively guarding Paul at the start. He darts by them and a helping Russell Westbrook for the score.