Kings of Clutch Time

Find out how Sacramento, led by three of the most clutch scorers in the League, has performed in high-pressure situations.
by Alex Kramers Contributor

Skal Labissiere’s three-pointer with only 1.6 seconds left on the clock against the Knicks on Sunday – the Sacramento forward’s first career game-winner – was the latest in a long line of last-second heroics by Kings players this season.

From De’Aaron Fox to Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield, the team’s young stars have routinely come through in high-pressure situations, draining memorable daggers and elevating their play with the game on the line. measures "clutch" as moments in the last five minutes, with the score within five points or less between the two teams. The Kings hold an impressive 18-14 record in 32 contests that have come down to the wire – the ninth-best mark in the League, ahead of the Spurs, Timberwolves and Thunder.

As the clock winds closer to zero in a tight game, Sacramento’s offensive rating tends to escalate, jumping from 101.3 overall to 112.5 in the final five minutes of clutch situations. Zoom in on the final two minutes, and the Kings have been even more efficient, sporting the NBA’s best effective field goal percentage (55.4) and second-highest offensive rating (127.5) and three-point percentage (36.7).

Perhaps even more remarkably, a team featuring six first- or second-year players in the regular rotation is tied with the veteran-laden Cavaliers and Thunder for the fewest turnovers (0.3) in the final 120 seconds of close contests.

Which Kings players have been the most clutch in the closing minutes?

Player PTS PTS/G FG% 3P% REB AST STL +/-
Buddy Hield 24 1.3 53.3 57.1 5 0 1 +18
De'Aaron Fox 23 1.2 47.6 0.0 5 3 3 +1
Bogdan Bogdanovic 22 1.0 38.5 40.0 6 3 1 -1
Garrett Temple 19 0.9 38.5 33.3 8 4 0 +21
Zach Randolph 17 0.9 50.0 0.0 4 1 0 +14
Willie Cauley-Stein 13 0.5 71.4 - 11 3 1 +9
Justin Jackson 4 0.4 100.0 - 4 1 0 +11
Skal Labissiere 3 0.5 100.0 100.0 0 0 1 +4
Kosta Koufos 2 0.7 100.0 - 1 1 1 -4
Frank Mason 2 0.3 50.0 - 2 2 0 +14

*Last 2 minutes, 5-point differential

Never one to shy away from the big stage or buckle under the pressure, Fox has taken the most field goal attempts (21) on the team in the last two minutes of clutch situations – with good reason. The rookie guard has converted 10 of them, while posting a 116.3 offensive rating. The two-way standout has also made his presence felt down the stretch by collecting three assists and swiping a team-leading three steals.

In the last 30 seconds, Fox has hit an incredible 5-of-6 clutch two-point shots, including a pair of game-winners – a pull-up jump shot from the top of the key against the Sixers on Nov. 9 and a stunning put-back dunk in Miami on Jan. 25. Last Thursday, No. 5 added to his résumé of crunch-time buckets by utilizing his blazing speed to beat his defender off the dribble and sink a baseline floater at the buzzer to send the Kings into overtime vs. the Nets.

When asked about his knack for making game-changing plays when it matters most, the 20-year-old confirmed he relishes the pressure.

"Game on the line, period," he said. "The ball doesn’t have to be in my hand, we can be on defense, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like everybody likes playing in those clutch moments."

Hield – whose 122.4 offensive rating in the last five minutes of clutch time is the 12th-highest in the League (min. 20 games) – has knocked down 7-of-14 three-pointers under those circumstances, tied for the fifth-best percentage among all players with as many attempts. His +34 plus/minus is not only tops on the team, but puts him in the company of All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo (+33) and Kevin Durant (+30) among League leaders.

Three of No. 24’s triples have either knotted the game or given the Kings the lead in the final two minutes, the most recent swishing through the net with 1:33 to go in a comeback victory against the Bulls on Feb. 5. In the final 30 seconds in the clutch, only four players have connected on more tries from behind the arc than Hield (two), who’s also a perfect 4-of-4 at the foul line in those situations.

Fellow Rising Star Bogdanovic isn’t far behind when it comes to big shots in the most critical junctures, drilling what proved to be the go-ahead trey vs. Chicago, as well as converting a spectacular four-point play that brought the Kings to within a point of the Lakers with 12 ticks on the clock on Feb. 24.

No. 8 paces the Kings with 15 points in the last 30 seconds of clutch time, drilling 3-of-5 from the field and consistently sealing games by going 8-of-11 from the free throw line.

Prior to Labissiere’s three vs. New York, Bogdanovic put Sacramento in the lead with a slick step-back jumper that left his defender in his tracks with 29 seconds left in regulation. The Serbia native’s defining rookie-year performance, of course, came against the defending champions in only his 17th NBA appearance – a driving floater over the Warriors Draymond Green, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, that gave the Kings a 108-106 advantage on Nov. 27.

"I have experience of knocking down clutch shots," Bogdanovic said, "and have confidence in taking them."

Led by a prolific backcourt trio, while getting crucial contributions from nearly every player on the roster, the Kings have established themselves as one of the League’s premier closers, a hopeful sign of what’s to come for the rapidly-developing squad.

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