Stat: Sixers guard Lou Williams leads all NBA players in points per 48 minutes of “clutch time”with a staggering mark of 55.9. Second place Kevin Durant scores 2.5 fewer points per 48 minutes in clutch time than Williams does.
Take: Every Spring as the playoffs roll around, you hear more and more about teams’ ability to come through in the clutch. More often than not this discussion centers around whether or not a team has a “closer,” a player that not only has the gumption to take the big shots but the talent to make them with consistency. Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Derrick Rose are commonly known as the league’s best in this regard, and their respective teams are considered extra dangerous because their unique combination of skills and mentality takes over as the fourth quarter clock winds down.
Philly, one of the surprise teams of the 2012 season despite their recent struggles (they’ve been without Spencer Hawes, who Doug Collins calls their most important player), has long been considered an afterthought because their roster lacks the requisite superstar, the type of player capable of putting the game on his shoulders in the closing minutes. Though Williams is hardly the former, he’s most certainly the latter. Lou’s always been one of the league’s quickest and slickest ballhandlers, but this season he’s hitting jumpers from 10 feet and out with a frequency he’s never previously approached, and it’s added up to the best and “most clutch” season of his career.
Philly’s offense can be hit or miss because of that missing dominant scorer and their reliance on mid-range jumpers, but their swarming defense is likely to give them a puncher’s chance in most every game once the postseason arrives. That Williams has quietly emerged as the game’s preeminent “closer,” then, is a development that should not go overlooked.
*It should be noted that Saving the Skyhook, while very impressed with Williams’ proficiency in crunch time, bemoans the entire concept of “closers” because in the vast majority of cases that’s just another term for a guy playing “hero ball.” Pay special attention to the offense teams with players like those mentioned above run in a close game with the clock winding down. What you’ll see is four players standing and ball-watching while the “closer” takes a difficult shot in a one-on-one situation. If that was the most efficient way to score, why don’t teams do it all game? Right. Because it’s not.