While LeBron James may not score more than some others in clutch situations, the fact that the Miami Heat are by far the best team in the NBA on both offense and defense, outscoring opponents by 32 points per 100 possessions in the final minutes of close games, more than double the pace-adjusted margin of the second-ranked team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, with a positive margin of 13.8 points per 100 possessions in clutch situations.
Clutch? The final five minutes of the game, and the score within five points.
And it’s not just James - LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Allen rank as four of the top five in clutch plus-minus, as Erik Spoelstra goes for the shooting ability of players instead of looking for defensive stoppers in the final minutes. James averages 29.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 11.2 assists per 36 minutes in clutch time, leading the NBA in both rebounds and assists during the deciding minutes of close games. He’s followed by Wade (19.6 points), Bosh (16.9 points) and Ray Allen with 17.8. Bosh, although the one who doesn’t get too many shots in these minutes, makes about 77% of his attempts in those minutes, making sure anyone who leaves him open pays for it dearly.
When it comes to volume scoring, no one does it better than Kyrie Irving. Yes, he plays for a crappy team that’s not going anywhere, but few would argue that he isn’t one of the future stars in the league. Irving is outscoring Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, two high-volume shooters in crunch time. Irving is averaging 41.3 clutch points per 36 minutes compared with the 38.6 points Durant puts up and the 38.2 Bryant has.
The more impressive part about Irving’s dominance? He makes 47.8% of his shots in these situations, while Durant and Bryant both shoot below 42% (Bryant at 41.6, Durant at 39.8). A handful of players surpass Irving’s shooting marks while maintaining respectable scoring numbers, but most of those players have attempted shots in the clutch at roughly half the rate that Irving did this season. Durant makes up for his misses by drawing more fouls in these minutes than anyone else in the league.
While it’s no surprise to see Dirk Nowitzki (making 45.5% of his three-pointers in crunch time) and James Harden on this list of top-performers in the final minutes, as Harden gets to the line more than anyone except for Kevin Durant, what is surprising is seeing the name of Jarrett Jack, who takes over the ball handling in the final minutes, while Stephen Curry makes way and tries to make himself open.
Jack has scored at the same rate as Westbrook (24.9 points), gotten to the free-throw line (13.8 attempts) as frequently as Bryant, notched more assists (5.5) than Parker or Deron Williams and converted from long range (40%) better than Curry.
Hat Tip: The Point Forward