LeBron James doesn’t have a reputation for being clutch. There was his 29-of-the-last-30 performance in Detroit in 2007 and his shot against the Magic in 2009, but we tend to think of James as the best player for the first 46 minutes of the game and not necessarily the last two.
Maybe that reputation is starting to change. In these playoffs, James has completely taken over down the stretch of two big games (Game 5 vs. Boston and Game 2 at Chicago), and hit a pair of clutch shots in another (Game 4 at Boston).
Of course, that was just three of the 710 games that James has played in his career, and clutchness can be fleeting.
(Clutch situations = Last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime period with a score differential (either way) of five points or less.)
James wasn’t so clutch in the first round, shooting 2-for-9 in clutch situations against Philadelphia. Fortunately for the Heat, the Sixers weren’t too clutch either, shooting 7-for-23 in the series.
But James has come up big against the Celtics and Bulls, shooting 8-for-15 in clutch situations over the last 10 days, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range …
LeBron James’ clutch shooting, 2011 playoffs
|Game 1 vs. PHI (W)||0||1||0||0||1||1||0||0||1|
|Game 3 @ PHI (W)||1||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Game 4 @ PHI (L)||1||4||0||1||2||2||0||0||4|
|Game 5 vs. PHI (W)||0||1||0||1||2||2||0||0||2|
|Game 4 @ BOS (W)||3||8||1||3||2||2||1||2||9|
|Game 5 vs. BOS (W)||2||2||2||2||0||0||1||0||6|
|Game 2 @ CHI (W)||3||5||1||2||0||0||0||1||7|
Overall, James’ 42 percent shooting in clutch situations is above the league-wide mark of 39 percent. But it’s actually a step down from his last two postseasons …
LeBron James’ clutch shooting, last four postseasons
With 10 field goals in clutch situations, James is tied with Kevin Durant and Zach Randolph for the most in these playoffs.
Most clutch field goals, 2011 playoffs
What does it all mean? As noted above, clutchness can be fleeting. Kobe Bryant shot 3-for-12 in clutch situations in this postseason, and James is only as clutch as his next shot down the stretch of a close game. But if he makes a few more, especially with the stakes being raised as the postseason goes on, he may steal some votes from Bryant on the final question of the NBA.com GM Survey next fall.