Picture this. It’s the final two minutes of a close game between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics in this year’s NBA Playoffs. Paul Pierce gets the ball and dribbles to his old reliable spot for an elbow jumper but instead of firing… he passes to Jeff Green in the corner for the shot. It may not exactly seem like winning basketball, but according to NBA.com/stats, that would actually be the correct decision by Pierce (at least this year).
The NBA Playoffs are where heroes are made and legacies are defined, and the NBA has developed a formula to measure clutch statistics, at least in terms of shooting. At its very base, it quantifies a player’s ability to make shots in the final five minutes of a game that is within five points. I have researched that stat a bit further to include slightly different qualifiers for this year’s playoff teams.
I looked at the most clutch players this season in the final two minutes of tight games (three points or less), with the final qualifier that the player had to take a minimum of 15 shots in that situation this season. Here are what the numbers said.
*** *** ***
Miami Heat: LeBron James predictably took the most shots in this situation but it was Dwyane Wade who had the higher percentage. LeBron shot 15-for-44 for 34.1 percent while Wade was slightly more efficient at 7-for-18 for 38.9 percent. Either way, it’s nice that Miami has the option of going to either guy when things get tight.
Milwaukee Bucks: Monta Ellis was money for the Bucks in this situation this year. He shot 17-for-38 for 44.7 percent, solidifying his reputation as a big shot taker and maker.
New York Knicks: Surprisingly it was J.R. Smith who led New York in this stat, aided by the two game-winners he hit earlier in the year. J.R. “Swish” was 8-for-16 for an even 50 percent, besting teammate Carmelo Anthony, who was just 5-for-15.
Boston Celtics: As mentioned in the opening of this article, Jeff Green was the most clutch member of the Celtics this season. Green connected on seven of his 15 shots (46.7 percent) when it mattered most for Boston. Pierce was 14-for-44 at 31.8 percent.
Indiana Pacers: There aren’t any deadly shooters in Indiana and they are a team that could go to a variety of sources when the game is on the line. Nonetheless it was George Hill who led them at 9-for-21 for 42.9 percent clutch shooting. Paul George was a very disappointing 3-for-22 (13.6 percent) despite an otherwise spectacular season.
Chicago Bulls: By the numbers it was Marco Belinelli who deserves the ball the most in clutch situations. I expected to find Nate Robinson as the leader but Belinelli shot 8-for-19 for 42.1 percent to lead the Bulls.
Brooklyn Nets: There was nobody better than Joe Johnson in the entire league under this scenario. “Iso” Joe had ice water in his veins, shooting 11-for-15 for 73.3 percent when things got close for Brooklyn.
Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford made 11 of the 22 clutch shots he took this season. At 50 percent, he was the undisputed leader for Atlanta, but he’s a guy who will need help in getting the ball when crunch time arises.