On LeBron James and NBA Clutch Shooting This Season

    LeBron James choked again? I think people were reading too much into what happened in the final moments of the 2012 all-star game, and James passing on the final shot, something we know Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant wouldn’t do, doesn’t necessarily mean anything regarding the postseason and James’ problems in fourth quarters.

    To be fair with James, his numbers in fourth quarters this season aren’t that impressive. But the Heat, with the best offense in the league (over 103 points per game), have hardly been in close ones. Their points per game differential is a +9.36, second in the league behind the Bulls. In their recent 8 game winning streak they have won them all in double digit margins.

    For last second shots? Well, even James doesn’t like to take it, but rather serve as a decoy or the guy who builds the play, Dwyane Wade isn’t a bad option to take that final field goal attempt. Wade hit two game winning shots back to back earlier in the season when facing the Bobcats and the Timberwolves. Miami do have problems in tight fourth quarters, but they hardly get to that situation.

    But comparing James to Durant and Bryant? There’s no argument about who likes to shoot when the pressure is on. In the final six minutes of games with a margin of 6 points or less to either team, Kobe Bryant leads the NBA so far this season with 81 field goal attempts in 21 games. Kevin Durant is right behind him with 78 in 17 games. Their success rate? Not so impressive. Bryant hits only 29.6% of his shots in crunch time, giving another indicator of how the Lakers would benefit from him taking less shots.

    Andrew Bynum, for example, in the same situation, is 18-22 from the field. He doesn’t take difficult shots like Kobe and needs someone to create for him, but that might mean the Lakers might do well by pushing the ball in the paint when the game is on the line instead of letting Bryant try, for the 1000th time, win it on his own.

    Durant’s success rate is much better, making 35-78 from the field, 44.9%. His long range shooting is impressive, with 38.1% from downtown during the close game scenario. Kobe? 13.3%. Lets not forget Durant shares a lot of his big game shots with Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is 28-57 in these situations, just under 50%, which sheds a different light on who should be taking the big shots in Oklahoma City.

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    Back to the Heat, who have 3 players who can carry the game in the closing minutes. Bosh has taken more field goal attempts than the other two, making 19-33, a very impressive 57.6% in crunch time. LeBron James is far less impressive with 9-27, 33.3%. Dwyane Wade? Even worse, with 7-25, 28%.

    Chris Bosh also has the highest field goal percentage in the clutch among all the players who have taken attempted at least 33 field goals. Looking at another number, the assisted field goals, Bosh’s number is also among the highest in the league, with 68.4%. Bryant and Durant are at around the 40% mark. LeBron creates those shots on his own, with an 11.1% assisted mark.

    Some were disappointed when James didn’t take the final shot himself last night. But they forget he led the comeback with excellent defense and nearly flawless long range shooting. He found Wade under the basket, and D-Wade messed it up. The obvious thing in the NBA is isolating the star, and let him try and win it on his own. Obvious, predictable. Maybe James did give up on the ball because he doesn’t want to take the last shot. But maybe it was simply something else.