KG in Playoffs Crunch Time

Last night Kevin Garnett hit the game-winning shot for the Celtics to win a playoff game.  And the national reaction was...SHOCK.

John Hollinger tweeted: " KG both taking and making the big crunch time shot. NOW I've seen everything."

J.A. Adande tweeted: "Read this Jackie Mac story to understand just how rare it was to see KG score go-ahead points: "

In fact, I read another article right after the game that also referenced the Jackie MacMullan piece as evidence that Garnett making a clutch postseason shot for the Celtics was a stunner.  So, let's take a look at the money quote from that article:

"There have been nine occasions in the postseason during the Big Three era when a potential go-ahead field goal was needed in the final seconds of regulation or overtime.

They break down this way:

  • Pierce: 2-for-4
  • Allen: 1-for-1
  • Garnett: 0-for-0
  • Somebody else: 1-for-4

So in his time with the Celtics, KG has not attempted a single shot in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime in a playoff game."

I read that MacMullan piece on the day that ESPN ran it last week, and there's only one thing I'd point out about it:

It's absolutely wrong.

Or, at the very least, it's extremely misleading.  And I say this as someone that has really become a fan of MacMullan's writing in the last few years.  But she really whiffed this one, and it's kind of sad to see that others in the national media are parroting her on it.

Because here's the thing: of the NINE occasions that MacMullan speaks of during the Big Three era when a potential go-ahead field goal was needed in the last 10 seconds...EIGHT of those occasions happened to be during the 2009 playoffs.  You know, the playoffs when the Celtics and Bulls played 7 overtime periods in 7 games?  The playoffs when both teams were taking shot-after-shot in the last 10 seconds of close games?  The playoffs when the Celtics and Magic played to a draw to be broken on a Big Baby buzzer beater?

You know, the playoffs when Kevin Garnett didn't play 1 second of postseason action?

That one niggling detail of Garnett not playing in 2009 changes the entire complexion of MacMullan's premise.  Because entering this season, in the Big Three era there had only been ONE SINGLE time in the playoffs when the Celtics had a shot in the last-10 seconds with the potential to go ahead when all three were actually playing.  Paul Pierce took and made that shot last year against the Heat.  But to imply that the Celtics never go to KG late based on an n of 1 is ridiculous.  It'd be like saying that Pierce didn't take or make a single shot in the last 10 seconds of a playoff game between 2006 and 2008, without noting the detail that the Celtics didn't make the playoffs in 2 of those seasons and the team didn't have any last-10 second opportunities in 2008.  It just invalidates the entire thing.

It's especially bad because it really isn't hard to get the actual info about the Celtics' late game shot distribution in the playoffs.  I wrote a couple of articles this season about the Celtics' clutch performances during the Big Three era, and both of them only took a couple of hours of research through or even the ESPN game logs to compile.  In Clutch Celtics part 1 I used the 82games definition of crunch time (last 5 minutes, game within 5 points) and the compilation indicated about what I'd expect...Pierce, KG and Ray Allen all averaged more than 20 points/48 minutes of crunch time, with Pierce slightly in the lead as a scorer, Ray dominating from distance, KG hitting the glass and blocking shots, and Rondo leading the team in assists.

But Clutch Celtics part 2 is more reflective of what Jackie Mac was aiming at: what do the Celtics do in the last possession of 1-possession games.  In my article I looked at the last 30 seconds (not just 10 seconds), and also included the regular season.  So over the total of the Big Three era, at the time of the article (March 11, 2011) Ray had made 6 game-winning shots in the last 30 seconds, Pierce 4, and Garnett 4 in the games that all 3 played in.  But if you want to limit it strictly to the postseason, there are so few games where a game-winning/tying shot in the last even 30 seconds was required during games when all of the Big Three were playing that we can list them all separately:

  1. 2008 playoffs, Round 1 game 6 (5/2/08): 13 seconds left, down by 2 points, Ray misses a 3-ptr.  Then, Rondo missed a 3-ptr at the buzzer that would have tied it.
  2. 2008 playoffs, Round 2 game 1 (5/6/08): 21 seconds left, tie game, KG makes a driving layup on Joe Smith that proved to be the game-winner.
  3. 2010 playoffs, Round 1 game 3 (4/23/2010): tie game, Pierce hits a buzzer-beater jumper to win
  4. 2011 playoffs, Round 1 game 1 (4/17/2011): down by 1 with 11 seconds left, Ray makes the 3-ptr that wins it
  5. 2011 playoffs, Round 1 game 2 (4/19/2011): down by 1 with 13 seconds left, KG backs his man down and makes the jump hook that wins it

And that's it.  There have been 5 postseason instances when all of the Big 3 were playing in which the team had a shot to tie/win with under 30 seconds left.  In those 5 instances Pierce is 1-for-1 with a game-winner, Ray is 1-for-2 with a game-winner, and KG is 2-for-2 with 2 game-winners.

Now, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are two of the most clutch players that have ever lived.  I fully endorse and support (and have enjoyed) that.  But seriously, this "KG isn't clutch" garbage is just getting ridiculously over-the-top.  And as much as I love Jackie Mac's work, I had to speak on this one.  The Celtics have a ridiculously good record in ultra close games because they have THREE of the most clutch players in the NBA.  And it'd really be nice if more of the national media ever recognized that.

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