Sunday, October 12, 2008

Most clutch team from last season?

The super geniuses who run are full of lovely stat goodies, ripe for the picking. Of particular interest to me was their run down on which teams from last regular season (2007-2008) were the most clutch. First of all, clutch is defined as the time period of the  "4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points" (, 2008). As a team the Utah Jazz played in the least clutch minutes, only 114 spread out over 34 games. By contrast, the Cleveland Cavaliers played by far the most clutch minutes that season, 228 minutes over 55 games. It's no surprise then that if you play more than half of your season in these situations that you are going to accumulate a much larger +/- score than any other team. [Cleveland's +/- is +132 for the season, and the next best team, the San Antonio Spurs, only gets a +55 for the season] Thus, we can conclude that there is only a limited value to these stats when observed in how they actually played out in specific games. Their true value lies in the extrapolation of the game results across the average, so that the general trends of the team can be seen . . . specifically as an average, and not a sum.

The teams that shot the best from the field during this 'clutch time' were the Spurs and the Jazz, who both shot 50.0 fg %. The other West playoff teams ranked as such: Phoenix (#6, 46.4 fg%), the LA Lakers (#14, 43.3 fg%), New Orleans (#16, 41.8 fg%), Dallas (#18, 41.2 fg%), Denver (#21, 40.6 fg%) and Houston (#25, 38.5 fg%).

The Jazz were surprisingly proficient (or in this case, CLUTCH) from three as well during the season. They shot 41.3 3pt %, and only Seattle did better at 42.2 3pt % for the season. The next Western Conference team was Sacramento (#6, 36.8 3pt %). It's nice to know that no playoff team from either conference was as clutch as the Jazz were from deep.

Utah's smashmouth style also netted them the 2nd most average FTA in clutch time (over 48 minutes), 55 free throw attempts. The Charlotte Bobcats only got to the line with more ferocity (60 free throw attempts), the next best Western Conference Playoff team was the LA Lakers (tied for 5th, with 50 fta). Compounding the problem for other teams, the Jazz shot 83 ft% in clutch time, tied for 2nd best in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons (two teams the Jazz went to the line much more than). The Toronto Raptors were the best in the league, and their great shooting roster produced an 84 ft% average.

True to the gameplan, 70% of the Jazz baskets were assisted (tops in the league), the second best team were the lowly Chicago Bulls with only 64%. Utah also had the most APG in this situation, with 25.7 assists, more than 3 more than the Spurs, who were #2. If you add it all up, the Jazz end up scoring 126 points (second only to the pace-tastic Golden State Warriors).

It's not all offense for the clutch Utah Jazz, as they were tied for 2nd in total number of blocks at 7.2 with the Bulls. The Jazz also rebounded the ball more than the ring winning Spurs. Ordinal rankings would then suggest that the Jazz were among the most clutch teams last season -- if not the most clutch last season.

Matt Harpring bicep is as big as Jason Hart's head . . .
Photographed by Michelle Majchrzak for NBAE / Getty Images 

To see all of this for yourself, visit and see how all 30 teams stack up in clutch time!