Clutch Celtics 2: Big Plays in Final 30 Seconds since '07

Earlier this week I wrote about how our Big 4 performs in crunch time as defined by (last 5 minutes of games within 5 points), and that is important information to have.  But "clutch" can have many definitions, and 82games' definition is only one of them.  Last month I posted about how the team had performed against the best competition this season, and that could be someone else's definition of "clutch performance" players play in the biggest games.

But another of the more popular definitions of "clutch" is the childhood playground've got the ball, end of the game, chance to win do you do?

Every so often takes a look at what they call game-winning shots (they define it as 24 seconds left, down 1 - 2 points).  Their last update was about 2 years ago, and among other interesting tidbits we saw that in Ray, Pierce and KG we had three players that had hit a lot of these shots between them, and that the league average on these kinds of shots is very low (29.8% at the time).

Well, in the wake of all of the attention that the Heat have been getting for failing in these situations, I thought to look more precisely at how the Celtics have done as a team since they came together in 2007.  First, I wanted to look at just how often these "game winning"/close game situations actually come up, and how the Celtics do in these games.  And I wanted to get into a bit more detail as many of the shots actually won games?  How many were assisted?  Who was getting the assists?  Essentially, how does the team play as a unit in those situations.  Also, I wanted to look beyond offense a bit and keep track of some clutch defensive plays as well.  Finally, I chose to look at the last 30 seconds of games within 1 possession...slightly different from's definition, but as good as any.  The 30 seconds was an arbitrary round number, and by looking at 1-possession (as opposed to 1-2 points) I was able to include some huge shots from Ray (who, as I re-confirm below, is absolutely ridiculous at making monster 3-pointers).

Anyway, without further ado, here are my findings.  I'll discuss some of them in more depth after the chart.

  • The Celtics have played 372 games (308 regular season, 64 postseason) since Fall of 2007.  Of those 372 games, 102 of them have been within one possession with under 30 seconds left in regulation (this includes all overtime games).  Overall, the Celtics are 66 - 36 in those games for a 65% win percentage (54 - 30 regular season, 12 - 6 postseason).
  • Of the 66 "close" wins, the Celtics had the lead entering the last 5 minutes and held it in 19 of the games.  Someone hit a shot within the last 5 minutes (but before our 30 second "crunch" definition) that gave them the lead, and they held it, in 26 of the games.  And someone hit a game-winning shot in the last 30 seconds of 21 of the games.
  • Of the Big 4, only Kevin Garnett has missed enough games/crunch times to be worth mentioning here (79 missed total, including 24 of the crunch times).  It's worth noting, because the team plays differently late when Garnett is there as opposed to when he isn't.  So, I'll chart the numbers for the games the Big 4 were in the clutch together, then a separate chart with Glen Davis replacing KG for the other times.

Here is the chart for when all four of Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Rondo have been available.  The Cs are 44 - 23 (66% win %) in close games in the regular season, and 8 - 3 (73% win %) in the postseason in these games.


   FGM   FGA    FG%    Ast-ed    FTM   FTA    FT%   3s M   3s A  G W   Ast  TOs    Stl/blk
Garnett 6 18 33.3 3 12 15 80.0 0 1 4 0 1 7
Pierce 8 26 30.8 2 31 33 93.9 1 3 4 9 4 3
Allen 12 26 46.2 8 33 38 86.8 9 19 6 2 4 0
Rondo 2 9 22.2 1 5 8 62.5 0 2 0 4 3 1


And here is the chart for when KG has been out.  The Cs are 10 - 7 (59%) in close games in the regular season, and 4 - 3 (57%) in the postseason in these games.

  FGM FGA  FG%  Ast-ed   FTM   FTA   FT%   3s M   3s A G W   Ast  TOs Stl/blk
Davis 2 3 66.7 2 2 2 100.0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Pierce 3 15 20.0 1 5 10 50.0 0 3 2 4 2 1
Allen 7 12 58.3 5 6 8 75.0 6 7 2 0 1 0
Rondo 3 9 33.3 0 2 2 100.0 0 0 0 5 0 0


Here are some of the things that jump out at me:

  • The Celtics as a team are excellent in these extremely close games.  I don't know what the league average is, but a winning percentage in the 65% - 70% range has to be among the league leaders.
  • When all of the Big 4 are available the roles are still pretty well defined, though it's not quite as equal-opportunity as the rest of the game (or even the regular crunch time situations) as Pierce becomes more-so the primary ball-handler in place of Rondo for obvious (FT) reasons. 
  • Ray (6), Pierce (4), and Garnett (4) all have similar numbers of game-winning scores in those games.
  • Pierce is the initiator (lot of assists, relatively few assisted shots).  He also shares the free throw responsibilities almost evenly with Allen (this data includes opponent intentional fouls late).  And he's made a fair number of big defensive plays as well.
  • Ray is absolutely, positively NAILS from downtown late.  If you add it up, he has made 15 of his 24 late-superclutch 3-pt attempts in a Celtic uniform.  That's 58%, people.  In fact, despite 28 of his 40 super-clutch shot attempts being treys, he still by-far leads the Cs in these situations with a 50% FG clip.  Most of his shots are assisted, but if you set that pick and get Ray the ball behind the arc he knocks it down.
  • KG has made his share of the game-winners, but he doesn't handle the ball that much (0 assists) in those situations outside of the shot itself.  Half of his made shots, including both of his buzzer-beaters, were assisted.  Meanwhile, he makes his mark on the defensive end with more super-clutch combined steals/blocks than any Celtic has game-winning shots in those games.
  • When KG has been out, Rondo has taken a bigger role late.  In those games he actually leads the team in late assists, and has almost as many field goal attempts as Allen and Pierce.
  • In his limited opportunities, Baby has played very well in super-clutch situations.  With the caveat that he tends to be wide-open because the opponent keys on Pierce and Ray, Baby still has to make the shot...and he's done so by making 2 of his 3 shots (including a playoff buzzer-beater) as well as both free throws.

OK, that's enough from me.  Anything else, I'll let you make of this what you will.

(**For those interested, I do a weekly basketball interview on XM 147/Sirius 211 every Friday at 1 pm EST.  Also, you can follow me on Twitter at ProfessorDrz**)

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