Here’s a chart from NBA.com showing a breakdown of LeBron James’ production in the clutch.
It’s pretty simple: a green box indicates that his production in that stat gets at least 10% better in the clutch (the last 5 minutes of a game within 5 points).
As you can see, in almost every statistical category, LeBron gets better in the clutch (we’ll discuss why below):
LeBron didn’t used to be this productive in the clutch. In his first two years in Miami, his shooting percentage in the last five minutes of close games actually decreased significantly.
Part of it is just the evolution of the Heat as a team. Unlike 2010 and 2011, LeBron is playing power forward in the clutch this year, where he has always been more efficient.
But there’s something else going on as well — LeBron is being more unselfish than he used to be. He’s shooting less and passing more, and the Heat are more deadly than they’ve ever been in the clutch.
- He’s shooting less. In 2010-11 and 2011-12, LeBron averaged 20.5 and 21.5 shots per 36 minutes in the clutch, respectively. This year he’s averaging 16.2 shots per 36 minutes. But when he does shoot, he’s hitting 61% of his shots compared to ~43% in the last two years.
- He’s passing more. In 2010-11 and 2011-12, he averaged 3.7 and 5.7 assists per 36 minutes in the clutch, respectively. This year he’s averaging 10.8 assists per 36 minutes.
And the results speak for themselves: with LeBron on the floor in the clutch, Miami scored 117.6 points per 100 possessions in 2010-11 and 105.7 in 2011-12. They’re scoring 141.5 points per 100 possessions this year.
LeBron is no longer trying to “takeover” games in the traditional “hero ball” sense — where a star player takes the ball at the top of the key and tries to win the game by himself.
Instead he’s taking games over by breaking down the defence, finding open shooters, and playing brutally efficient basketball.
It’s a scary development. The best player in the world has found a way to get even better when the game is on the line.
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