Stat of the Day: the Clippers have failed miserably in the ‘clutch’


To some, clutch is a state of mind — it’s something you’re born with and you usually don’t acquire it in your career — either you have it or you don’t. Over years, fans often identify with ones ability to carry their team in the end moments of games: Michael Jordan was “clutch”. Kobe Bryant was “clutch”. According to many, LeBron James is not “clutch”. To fans, it’s a narrative that NEVER changes, regardless of what the statistics say (or don’t say).

Instead of going off this nonsensical whim that speaks to narratives , the NBA has attempted to quantify “clutch”, giving it a time and a place, and this season, the Los Angeles Clippers have not been clutch. Per NBA Stats, with less than five minutes on the clock and the Clippers are ahead or behind by 5 points a.k.a. “the clutch”, LA is shooting 32.7% from the field, the third worst FG% mark in this particular period, only ahead of the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. Last season, the Clippers excelled in the specified time frame, shooting 44.2% from the field in the clutch, good for 6th best in the NBA.

To find the culprits behind this “lack of clutch”, I’ve put together a chart comparing the field-goal percentage differentiation from this season in comparison to last season from the players:

[table id=31 /]

Well hello Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, and J.J. Redick.

Finding a reason behind this decrease is difficult as the NBA is a make-or-miss league. Take this play from Paul against the Utah Jazz for example: on the season, CP3 is shooting 50.2% from mid-range, and on a well-executed jab step, Paul creates separation between he and Steve Blake, eventually missing a routine pet shot.

For Paul specifically, this has been the instance all year: another big play that comes to mind is a routine layup (though contested) missed against the San Antonio Spurs early in the season that would’ve tied up the game.

Looking back on how Paul has fared in “clutch” throughout his career, the Point God is on pace for the worst output of his career in the specified timeframe (Last 5 Min | +/- 5 PTS), with his previous worse being in 2006-07 when Paul shot 26-71 (36.6%). Since then, Paul has only shot 45% all of three times in the clutch.

In comparison to his peers, both elite and those who rank as very good, Paul ranks dead last in the clutch, as seen in the chart below.

[table id=32 /]

For Redick and Crawford, the same applies: it’s a matter of making and missing shots. Redick shooting poorly comes as a more of a surprise than Crawford due to the manner in which they get their shots: Crawford’s attempts often come in isolation while Redick’s comes off screens and in catch-and-shoot. Of Redick’s 16 “clutch” attempts, 12 have come from three — he’s only made one of those 12 (combined Crawford, Paul, and Redick are 5-30 from 3 in the “clutch”, and most looks have looked similar to this miss against the Spurs.

With Crawford, well, it’s this kind of shot, like almost every Jamal Crawford jump shot, and like Paul, it’s a matter of him making and missing them, and he’s been missing.

If like Redick, you’re a believer in the law of averages balancing themselves out, there’s little to worry about. Paul has proven to be a go-to player at the end of games, as have Redick and Crawford in their careers, but through the first three and a half months of the season, they’ve been the exact opposite of that and the Clippers have hurt from it.

Maybe Blake Griffin can become the full-time go-to guy at the end of games. Can’t be any worse than what’s been done before.

Next: Clippers rumors: Team has no intention of trading Jamal Crawford