There’s been a lot of fourth quarter heroics this season and we haven’t even entered 2014. Stephen Curry gave the most recent of them last night over Shawn Marion. Curry made it look so simple; it’s like he took a screen to get matched up with Marion, Dallas’ best perimeter defender on the floor, just so he could have a challenge before sinking the game-winner.
Not every play in “crunch time” is that successful, though, and most of them aren’t. They often seem to end with sloppy offense, leading to questions of what play was really drawn up in the huddle beforehand. (That’s if there was a timeout, which TrueHoop has wrote about in the past why those are inefficient in crunch time.) Some players are noticeably more successful than others when the pressure is at its highest. That doesn’t stop others who struggle, though, from demanding the ball.
Let’s take a look at who has the highest usage rate, for better or for worse, in crunch time according to NBA.com. After that, we’ll look at field goal attempts and free throws from those high-usage players. We’ll also define crunch time as during the last five minutes of the game and a lead or deficit within five points. I also filtered out anyone who played less than ten minutes.
Anyway, take a look:
|Player||Crunch Games||Crunch Minutes||
Crunch Usage Rate
% of team’s crunch points
|Crunch +/-||Overall +/-|
|Derrick Rose (CHI)||5||16||50.2%||43.8%||-2||-33|
|Kyrie Irving (CLE)||11||48||43.8%||47.9%||+2||-90|
|LeBron James (MIA)||10||31||43.5%||49.2%||-5||+83|
|James Harden (HOU)||8||38||43.2%||45.7%||+1||+114|
|Kevin Durant (OKC)||12||48||43.1%||36.7%||+19||+123|
|Eric Bledsoe (PHX)||11||39||42.7%||42.2%||+14||-27|
|Carmelo Anthony (NYK)||11||44||42.7%||40.5%||-17||-65|
|Chris Paul (LAC)||13||38||39.3%||34.0%||+11||+98|
|Stephen Curry (GSW)||8||36||39.0%||43.0%||0||+152|
|Dirk Nowitzki (DAL)||15||45||38.4%||41.4%||+30||+104|
If I do another post like this again, I’ll take Derrick Rose off it. He won’t be able to add to his crunch time numbers while others will.
The league-leader for usage rate overall is DeMarcus Cousins with 35.3, so you can tell the usage rates for the players listed above are well beyond their average. Cousins dropped to 20th in the league in usage in crunch time at 34.2. There’s a lot of other weirdos in the top 25 like Brandon Jennings (37.0 usage), Glen Davis (36.0), Nick Young (35.3), and Luol Deng (33.6). Only one player who can’t really bring the ball up the floor (Dirk), made the top 10 and only three made the top 25. That’s not really surprising, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.
I also added how much of the team’s scoring comes from those players and some plus-minus stats. Samples remain small, though. Lebron James’ plus-minus, for instance, should definitely bounce back. Last season, James (and the rest of Miami’s crunch lineup of Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers) led the NBA in +/- in crunch time.
It’s worth noting, though, that the usage rates shown above are pretty typical. Last year, Kyrie Irving led the league with using 52.3 percent of Cleveland’s crunch time possessions.
Now, let’s take a look at the shooting numbers of the 10 players listed:
|Derrick Rose (CHI)||5||10||50.0%||1||2||50.0%||3||4||75.0%|
|Kyrie Irving (CLE)||14||39||35.9%||4||11||36.4%||14||17||82.4%|
|LeBron James (MIA)||9||18||50.0%||3||6||50.0%||11||12||91.7%|
|James Harden (HOU)||8||23||34.8%||4||8||50.0%||23||29||79.3%|
|Kevin Durant (OKC)||9||37||24.3%||3||14||21.4%||23||25||92.0%|
|Eric Bledsoe (PHX)||12||28||42.9%||2||10||20.0%||12||16||75.0%|
|Carmelo Anthony (NYK)||8||32||25.0%||0||7||0.0%||14||15||93.3%|
|Chris Paul (LAC)||12||28||42.9%||3||7||42.9%||8||11||72.7%|
|Stephen Curry (GSW)||12||27||44.4%||3||12||25.0%||7||7||100.0%|
|Dirk Nowitzki (DAL)||15||31||48.4%||0||2||0.0%||11||13||84.6%|
I had to cut the graph off out of fear of terrible formatting, so I couldn’t include minutes again or other stats like turnovers. That’s unfortunate since listing minutes helps compare shooting frequencies as well as fouling too. Hopefully the graph still formats correctly. I fear it won’t.
But if it does show up in one piece, you can see this is when some stats get cringe-worthy. Melo, for instance, has taken the third-most attempts but is tied for the second-least makes. Only Irving has similar struggles both with shooting field goals late in the game and with getting to the line.
Altogether, the three-point rate for the 10 players combined is higher than the league-average over the course of a game, .289 compared to .253. The foul rate, .546, nearly doubles the league average of .281. Shooting efficiency is way down, however. The effective field goal percentage of the ten players listed is just .423 while the league average over 48 minutes is .494.
Hopefully the execution down the stretch changes for the better, unless it comes at the expense of your favorite team losing a heart-breaker. In that case, more bricks!
For the most and least crunchy teams this season, click here.