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Sixers in the Clutch: How Have They Done?

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Sixers performance in the clutch:  we've talked about it ad nauseum for weeks now.  We've all made certain statements based on impressions, but I decided to put numbers behind those impressions.  What follows won't be pretty and mostly won't be surprising, but hopefully it will be informative ...

First, a word about methodology.  I defined three different levels of clutch situations as follows:
  • Clutch:  the possession begins with the scoring margin at 5 points or less and ends with 5 minutes or less on the clock (4th quarter or OT)
  • Super-Clutch:  the possession begins with the scoring margin at 3 points or less (one possession) and ends with 2 minutes or less on the clock (4th quarter or OT)
  • Ultra-Clutch:  the possession begins with the scoring margin at 3 points or less and ends with 24 seconds or less on the clock (4th quarter or OT)
The above definition of Clutch is more or less how 82games.com defines it.  Note that a possession where the lead is cut from 6 to 4 doesn't count under that definition.  With these definitions in hand, I went through the play-by-play logs for all Sixer games to date this year and extracted all possessions that fit the three above categories.

There have been 24 games where Clutch situations occurred.  Not surprisingly, the Sixers' record in those games isn't good, 9-15.  Their failures have been grisly, to say the least:
  • Wizards 11/2 (the Cartier Martin game): blew a 6-point lead with 1:28 left
  • Cavs 11/5: went from a 5-point lead to a 7 point deficit in 3 minutes, giving up 15 points in 8 possessions
  • Wizards 11/23 (the 40-foot-foul game): blew a 5-point lead with 0:45 left, gave up game-winning 3-pointer in OT
  • Hawks 12/3 (underrated loss): blew 6-point lead with 2:17 left, getting outscored 11-0
  • Pistons 1/8 (the Austin Daye game): blew 3-point lead with 0:06 left and the ball
  • Magic 1/19 (the Jason Richardson game): blew 5-point lead with 0:28 left
  • Grizzlies 1/28 (the Collapse): blew 4-point lead with 2:45 left, giving up 19 points in 9 possessions
On the other side of the leger, there have really been only three good comeback wins:  the Nuggets game in Denver (the Sixers made up a 2-point deficit and won going away) and the back-to-back games in January vs. the Bucks and Bobcats (the games with the late Lou Williams 3-pointers).

Needless to say, the stats aren't pretty either.  The first table shows team stats for the Sixers and their opponents in each of the three situations.  By definition, Ultra-Clutch is a subset of Super-Clutch, which is a subset of Clutch.  The stat categories should be straightforward, but note that I separated out intentional fouls (IPF) from "regular" personal fouls (PFL) and counted offensive fouls under turnovers only.  Note also that a game-ending miss that isn't rebounded is counted as an offensive team rebound, and the Sixers have had more of those than their opponents.

Clutch Super-
Clutch
Ultra-
Clutch
PHI OPP PHI OPP PHI OPP
2PM 61 62 20 21 4 4
2PA 136 109 49 33 14 7
3PM 11 13 3 7 1 4
3PA 45 39 12 21 7 10
EFG% 42.8 55.1 40.2 58.3 26.2 58.8
FTM 64 96 35 52 17 40
FTA 84 115 43 59 22 44
FT% 76.2 83.5 81.4 88.1 77.3 90.9
TS% 50.2 65.2 52.6 71.9 45.6 82.5
ORB 40 24 16 10 9 5
DRB 54 74 16 26 5 10
TRB 94 98 32 36 14 15
AST 32 38 13 13 2 4
PFL 37 32 14 12 6 0
IPF 22 15 17 11 16 11
STL 13 16 2 7 1 4
TOV 25 23 10 6 5 1
BLK 7 9 3 5 1 1
PTS 219 259 84 115 28 60
POS 211 201 79 77 33 35
RTG 104 129 106 149 85 171

Simply put, these numbers are astounding.  The Sixers themselves have performed slightly below their whole-game performance in clutch situations, with a TS% of 50.2% (which goes up to 52.6% in Super-Clutch but down to 45.6% in Ultra-Clutch situations) and an offensive rating of 104 points-per-100-possessions (up to 106 in Super-Clutch but down to a horrible 85 in Ultra-Clutch situations).  This compares to their season-to-date numbers of 53.3% for TS% and 103.4 for offensive rating.  Note, however, that offensive ratings should be higher toward the end of the game because of intentional fouls.  What is truly astounding, though, is that Sixer opponents have been unstoppable in the Clutch:  an eFG% that goes up from 55% in the Clutch to 59% in Ultra-Clutch situations, FT% that goes up from 83.5% to 90.9%, TS% that goes up from 65.2% to 82.5% (current league leader is at 72%), and an offensive rating (Sixer defensive rating) that goes from up from 129 to 171.  Even if foul shots are removed from the equation, the eFG% for Sixer opponents is way too high in clutch situations.  League average in Ultra-Clutch situations is around 30%, and the Sixers are giving up 47% (and shooting 24% themselves).

So as much as we gnash our teeth at the Sixers' offensive failures in clutch situations, the defensive failures that are much more concerning.  (And in that area, not having Dalembert hurts a lot.  I can remember at least a few games off the top of my head where he got big stops at the end -- a block on McGrady, a block vs. the Bulls in the last game at the Spectrum, several stops of Duncan.)  One aspect of their "defense" does bear mentioning as somewhat unlucky:  opponent free throw shooting.  The Sixers have been unlucky overall in opponent free throw shooting (ranking 29th out of 30, with opponents shooting 78.6% vs. them), but Sixer opponents turn into a collective Steve Nash in the clutch (91% in Ultra-Clutch situations).  The worst game was the Memphis game, where Zach Randolph (74%), Marc Gasol (75%) and Tony Allen (72%) combined to go 11 for 11 down the stretch.  As badly as the Sixers played in that game, they had the misfortune of running into unusually good free throw shooting.

But the individual offensive stats are illuminating too.  The next three tables show the stats for the seven most prominent Sixers in the three Clutch categories.  Comments follow below the tables.

Clutch
AI EB JH JM TY LW ET
2PM 10 12 10 1 12 5 5
2PA 23 22 18 1 22 20 17
3PM 0 0 3 4 0 4 0
3PA 7 0 10 5 0 16 1
EFG% 33.3 54.5 51.8 117 54.5 30.6 27.8
FTM 12 5 6 3 3 18 13
FTA 17 6 8 3 5 22 16
FT% 70.6 83.3 75.0 100 60.0 81.8 81.3
TS% 42.7 58.8 55.5 116 55.8 43.8 45.9
ORB 2 9 2 0 8 2 3
DRB 10 11 5 0 9 6 7
TRB 12 20 7 0 17 8 10
AST 9 3 8 0 1 10 1
PFL 5 7 7 1 5 3 1
IPF 2 1 3 2 1 6 4
STL 3 5 2 0 1 0 2
TOV 1 2 9 1 0 3 1
BLK 3 2 0 0 1 0 0
PTS 32 29 32 17 27 40 21

Super-Clutch
AI EB JH JM TY LW ET
2PM 6 4 2 0 6 0 1
2PA 16 6 6 0 9 6 4
3PM 0 0 0 1 0 2 0
3PA 0 0 1 2 0 6 1
EFG% 37.5 66.7 28.6 75.0 66.7 25.0 20.0
FTM 8 2 0 0 1 13 9
FTA 9 2 0 0 1 17 12
FT% 88.9 100 - - 100 76.5 75.0
TS% 50.1 72.7 28.6 75.0 68.9 48.8 53.5
ORB 1 2 0 0 4 2 1
DRB 2 3 2 0 3 2 3
TRB 3 5 2 0 7 4 4
AST 4 0 3 0 0 6 0
PFL 2 3 2 0 2 2 0
IPF 2 1 2 2 0 4 3
STL 0 1 0 0 1 0 0
TOV 1 1 3 1 0 1 1
BLK 2 1 0 0 0 0 0
PTS 20 10 4 3 13 19 11

Ultra-Clutch
AI EB JH JM TY LW ET
2PM 1 2 0 0 1 0 0
2PA 8 3 0 0 1 1 1
3PM 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
3PA 0 0 0 1 0 3 1
EFG% 12.5 66.7 - 0 100 37.5 0
FTM 2 0 0 0 0 7 6
FTA 2 0 0 0 0 10 8
FT% 100 - - - - 70.0 75.0
TS% 22.5 66.7 - 0 100 59.5 54.3
ORB 0 1 0 0 1 1 1
DRB 1 1 0 0 1 1 0
TRB 1 2 0 0 2 2 1
AST 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
PFL 1 1 2 0 1 0 0
IPF 2 1 1 2 0 4 3
STL 0 0 0 0 1 1 0
TOV 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
BLK 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
PTS 4 4 0 0 2 10 6

Comments:
  • It won't be surprising to anyone on this blog that Iguodala hasn't shot well in the clutch this year.  However, he has shown signs of improving recently (6 for his last 11), just as he did in 08-09.  And the rest of his game is solid as ever: 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 turnover, 3 steals, 3 blocks.  Unfortunately, I couldn't compile minutes easily, but he's gotten those stats in about half the clutch possessions as everyone else on the list (save Turner).
  • Brand and Thad have both been very good shooters in clutch situations.  Thad has a few tip-ins but also some jumpers made.  Neither of them have gotten many opportunities in Ultra-Clutch situations, and that probably should change (see below).
  • Jrue is actually one of the Sixers' better shooters in the clutch (52% eFG%, 56% TS%), but it's his turnovers that have lost the coach's trust:  9 turnovers is triple that of any other player and more than his assists (8).
  • Turner's play has mirrored his overall play: poor FG shooter, decent FT shooter, good rebounder.
  • Finally, regarding the controversial Lou Williams ... It might surprise you that he leads the team in assists in clutch situations, with a decent 10:3 assist-to-turnover ratio.  He's also a good foul shooter (though his 4 misses have all come in painful losses).  But you wonder if the positives make the negatives worth it: 9-for-36 in Clutch situations, 2-for-12 in Super-Clutch.  If he isn't drawing the foul, he's not the one you want shooting.
So what conclusions can be drawn from these stats?  I'd say it isn't necessarily a bad thing for Iguodala to initiate the plays at the end of the game, but they need to be plays where an Iguodala shot is not the only option.  Brand and Thad have shown they can finish if given a good shot.  While I wouldn't trust either to get that shot themselves (Brand too slow, Thad too turnover prone under pressure), I have confidence when I see them go up for an open shot.  Jrue has shown that he is a good shooter and finisher in the clutch, and he's another good option to take the shot, as long as he doesn't have to face the teeth of the defense (where a turnover is a good possibility).  If Jrue gets the ball after Iguodala has gotten the defense moving, chances of success are good.  And Lou I would really trust only if he penetrates (3-pointers vs. MIL/CHA notwithstanding), which he doesn't do often enough in the clutch.   Suprisingly, Meeks has shown that he's a reliable option as an outlet, though most of his makes have come in relatively low-pressures situations (Sixers already trailing by 4 or 5).

I've forwarded the raw play-by-play file and the spreadsheet with all the stats to Brian, so you can look through the data yourself.  I'll be keeping up with these stats throughout the rest of the year and will report as warranted.



by Statman on Feb 3 2011
Tags: Advanced Stats | Basketball | Crunch Time | Sixers | Statman |