VIDEO: Heat excelled in the clutch last season
From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Miami Heat, who are looking for a third straight championship.
Clutch = Last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less.
Miami is the first team to pull off that feat since we could start tracking clutch stats in 1996-97. And it helped them go 32-8 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, after going 22-20 in such games in 2010-11 and 18-11 in 2011-12. Since 1996-97, the only team that’s been better in close games was the 2006-07 Mavs, who were 32-6 when the game was within five points in the last five minutes.
The Heat finished second in point differential (which is why there’s still one more team to look at in this series), but finished six games better than the Oklahoma City Thunder, because they were much better than OKC (21-16) in those close games. Even when they were winning 27 straight, Miami had to do a lot of work late. Fourteen of those 27 games were within five points in the last five minutes.
LeBron James led the league with 50 clutch-time assists, 16 more than any other player, which came with only nine clutch-time turnovers. Chris Bosh, meanwhile, shot an incredible 27-for-35 (77.1 percent) on clutch-time field goals, easily the best mark in the league among players who took more than a few shots. Ray Allen tied for the league lead with 15 clutch threes and Dwyane Wade shot a solid 50 percent in the clutch.
Across the league, effective field goal percentage went from 49.6 percent overall to 45.0 percent in the clutch. But Miami’s mark barely dipped from 55.2 percent overall (the best mark in NBA history) to 54.7 percent, a mark which would have ranked fifth all-time.
They also cut down on their turnovers and were a better offensive rebounding team in the clutch. On the other end of the floor, they went from the seventh worst defensive rebounding team overall to the second best defensive rebounding team in the clutch.
It’s good to be great in key moments, and the Heat obviously needed it in the postseason. They were 5-4 in games within five points in the last five minutes in the playoffs, but that, of course, included the last two games of The Finals.
You could certainly argue that building late-game habits and confidence helped the Heat win their second championship. But you could also argue that there’s no way they’re winning 80 percent of their close games again. As important as it is to have the best player in the world and great shooters around him, there’s some randomness to clutch stats.
And not only is that 32-8 mark likely unsustainable, but so might be that all-time best, effective field goal percentage mark of 55.2 percent. And for those two reasons, it’s fair to assume that Miami will take a step back from last year’s 66 wins.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions