The Celtics have a reputation as a young team that’s nonetheless gritty and fearless — especially in clutch shooting situations. A look at the advanced shooting stats from InPredictable.com show that rep is well deserved.
As a team, the Celtics shoot an effective field-goal percentage of .541 at clutch time, compared to the league average of .459. In “clutch-squared” time, the team hits at a .388 clip, above the league benchmark of .375. (More on the definition of “clutch” and “clutch squared” below.)
What’s more, as with so many elements of this edition of the Celtics, there’s a strong teamness element. Of the 13 Celtics who have taken meaningful clutch attempts, 10 exceed the league benchmark. Three Celtics also exceed the league average for delivering at clutch-squared time. Naturally, Marcus Morris is in that mix.
But the team’s top two players at crunch time? Yep, it’s Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. This is just what many fans hoped and (patting selves on back) Celtics247 predicted might emerge some weeks ago, when a team ravaged by injuries turned to Brad Stevens and his wonderful chemistry set.
Who takes the last shot?
Some observations on the above.
1. Fans shouldn’t be too disappointed that players like Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Terry Rozier are less impressive than you might think at clutch-squared time. These are last-second possessions in which those three playmakers often have to create their own shot.
By contrast — at least for most of the season — Brown and Tatum haven’t been called on to create. They’ve gotten some fine looks at such times. Still, their performance, and Morris’s, hasn’t declined in the absence of Horford (some) and Kyrie (more). If anything, they’ve blossomed.
2. Instead, be happy that such Celtics as Shane Larkin, Aron Baynes, Abdel Nader, and Daniel Theis (sigh) can hit pressure shots as well. (Please don’t @ us about Nader. These figures do not include clutch free-throw attempts.)
Who takes the last shot? The conventional NBA wisdom is, you need to be able to answer that question with “this guy,” or at most “this guy or that guy.”
So far — and it’s getting late in the regular season — the Celtics can answer, “one of these 10 guys who’s open.”
3. Marcus Smart — yes, yes, we know. But note, Smart has a phenomenal assist rate at clutch time. And his clutch-time NetRtg was tops on the Celtics when he went down a couple of weeks ago. In short, he’s smart enough not to shoot it in clutch time, or especially, clutch-squared time. Somehow, some way, Smart makes winning plays. He just doesn’t hit big shots, much.
(Notes: “Clutch” shots have “an elevated impact on a game’s outcome.” Clutch-squared shots are “critical to a game’s outcome” — generally, buzzer-beaters or potential buzzer-beaters. Rather than a mechanical definition such as “the last 5 minutes,” InPredictable defines clutch-time in terms of game situations where making or missing a shot has an elevated impact on the likelihood of changing the outcome of a game. More on the definition of clutch and clutch-squared at InPredictable.com.)