One Team, One Stat: Miami Heat find 3-point range in clutch moments
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Miami Heat, who were comfortable in the clutch.
The Heat played 53 games, most in the league, that were within five points in the last five minutes.
Teams have played more “clutch” games in previous seasons; The Wizards played 55 the season prior. But there was one eight-week stretch last season (from Dec. 30 – Feb. 23) in which 23 of 24 Heat games were within five points in the last five minutes. That is kind of wild.
The Heat played good teams tough. They went 9-8 against the top five teams in the East last season and they had the league’s best defense in games against top-10 offenses. At the same time, they didn’t have a very big margin for error against bad teams. Among the 18 teams that finished with winning records, they ranked last in time (256 total minutes) with a lead of 15 points or more.
On the surface, the Heat weren’t excessively lucky in going 29-24 in those games that were within five in the last five. They were 15-14 otherwise, ranked seventh defensively overall, and there was just a one-game difference between their 44 actual wins and their 43 “expected” wins (based on point differential). But there’s always some randomness in close-game results, which can depend on one or two possessions.
And there’s a reason to wonder about how well the Heat performed offensively in the clutch. Though three other teams had a bigger differential in how efficiently they scored, the Heat were the only team that ranked in the top 10 in clutch offense (eighth – 113.1 points scored per 100 possessions) and in the bottom 10 in non-clutch offense (24th – 104.0). And what you really have to wonder about is the Heat’s 3-point shooting in the clutch.
On non-clutch possessions, the Heat shot 35.9 percent from 3-point range, a little worse than the league average (36.4 percent). But on clutch possessions, the Heat shot a league-best 39.2 percent from 3-point range, much better than the league average (31.2 percent). Only two other teams – Boston (38.1 percent vs. 37.7 percent) and Philadelphia (37.1 percent vs. 36.8 percent) – shot better on clutch threes than they did on non-clutch threes.
The Sixers and Heat ranked first and second, respectively, in both the percentage of their (overall) 3-pointers that were assisted and the percentage of their 3-point attempts that came off the catch (according to Second Spectrum tracking).
You could argue that being a more off-the-catch 3-point shooting team helps you in the clutch, when a lack of ball movement can be an issue. But league-wide, there wasn’t much of a correlation between the percentage of a team’s 3-point attempts that came off the catch and how much its 3-point percentage improved or dropped off in the clutch.
So we’re left with a conclusion that the Heat were a little lucky in the clutch last season. Wayne Ellington led them in clutch 3-point attempts, but the percentage of the team’s total threes that he attempted in the clutch (23 percent) was the same as it was in non-clutch situations. James Johnson, meanwhile, shot 7-for-16 (44 percent) on clutch threes and 50-for-169 (30 percent) on non-clutch threes.
Unless they pull of a trade in the next couple of weeks, the Heat will go into the season with nearly the same roster that they had last season. And if they’re going to remain an Eastern Conference playoff team, the margin for error will remain thin, and they won’t necessarily be able to count on the same results in the clutch.
Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).
HEAT NOTES – GENERAL
- Have the Eastern Conference’s best record (484-320, 0.607) over the last 10 seasons.
- Were the third most improved team after the All-Star break, 6.0 points per 100 possessions better than they were before break, with the greater improvement coming on offense.
- Have ranked in the bottom 10 in pace in 11 of the last 12 seasons and have played slower than the league average in 25 of the last 26.
- Saw the league’s biggest increase in pace from the regular season (97.8 possessions per 48 minutes – 26th in the league) to the playoffs (103.0 – fastest-paced series in the first round).
HEAT NOTES – OFFENSE
- Scored just 98.0 points per 100 possessions in the second quarter and 106.6 otherwise.
- Took 27 percent of their 3-pointers from the corners. That was the third highest rate in the league, though down from 31 percent (the league’s highest rate) in 2016-17.
- Attempted just 17.8 pull-up jumpers per game, second fewest in the league.
- Ranked second in the league in hand-off frequency (10.7 percent of total possessions).
- Turnover rate of 15.7 per 100 possessions was the highest in the postseason.
HEAT NOTES – DEFENSE
- Have ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in 18 of the last 23 seasons.
- Had the best defense (allowing 103.6 points per 100 possessions in 23 games) against the league’s top 10 offenses. Were the only team that allowed fewer points per 100 possessions against the top 10 offenses than they did against the bottom 20 (104.1).
- Ranked fourth in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (52.2 percent), though their opponents took 50 percent of their shots, the league’s third highest rate, in the paint.
- Allowed just 165 corner 3-pointers, the third fewest in the league.
HEAT NOTES – LINEUPS
- Players still on the roster accounted for 97 percent of the team’s minutes last season. That’s the highest returning rate in the league.
- Bench unit of Josh Richardson, Ellington, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo outscored its opponents by 19.0 points per 100 possessions, the 11th best mark among 127 lineups that played at least 100 minutes together.
- Best on-court OffRtg among two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes): James Johnson and Olynyk. The Heat scored 113.6 points per 100 possessions in 622 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- Best on-court DefRtg among two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes): Adebayo and Winslow. The Heat allowed just 96.2 points per 100 possessions in 546 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- The Heat were 8.9 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Olynyk on the floor (scoring 109.4) than they were with him off the floor (scoring 100.5). That was the seventh biggest on-off OffRtg differential among 266 players that played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team last season.
- In the playoffs, the Heat were a plus-5 in 127 minutes with Dwyane Wade on the floor and a minus-59 in 113 minutes with Wade on the bench.
HEAT NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Bam Adebayo and James Johnson passed 58 percent of the time and 53 percent of the time, respectively, on post-ups. Those were two of the three highest rates among players with at least 100 post-up possessions, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
- Adebayo averaged 5.2 screen assists per 36 minutes, most among 48 rookies who played at least 500 minutes last season.
- Goran Dragic shot just 31 percent on pull-up 3-pointers, down from 42 percent (one of the league’s best marks) in 2016-17.
- Wayne Ellington set an NBA record with 218 3-pointers off the bench. He was one of six players who played at least 1,000 total minutes and attempted at least 10 3-pointers per 36. 83 percent of Ellington’s shots, the highest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts, came from 3-point range. He led the league in second-quarter 3-pointers (74) and fourth-quarter 3-pointers (77).
- Tyler Johnson took 46 percent of his shots from 3-point range, up from 30 percent last season. That was the fifth biggest increase among players with at least 400 field goal attempts in both seasons.
- Kelly Olynyk shot 76 percent in the restricted area, the second best mark among 178 players with at least 150 restricted-area field goal attempts. He shot 59 percent on drives, the third best mark among players who attempted at least 100 shots on drives. James Johnson had the fourth best mark (57 percent).
- Josh Richardson‘s 75 blocks ranked second among players shorter than 6-7.
- Richardson saw an increase (though not a career high) in effective field goal percentage, even though the percentage of his shots that came from 3-point range dropped from 44 percent in ’16-17 to 38 percent last season (the seventh biggest drop among 126 players with at least 500 field goal attempts both seasons).
- Dwyane Wade had an effective field goal percentage of 36.8 percent from outside the paint, the second worst mark among 207 players who attempted at least 200 total shots from the outside.
- Wade averaged just 11.4 points per game last season, down from 18.3 in 2016-17. That was the third biggest drop among 260 players that played in at least 40 games both seasons. But he grabbed 14.1 percent of available rebounds while was on the floor (14.4 percent with Miami) last season. That was the second highest rebounding percentage of his career.
- Dion Waiters shot 31 percent from 3-point range, down from 40 percent in 2016-17. That was the third biggest drop in 3-point percentage among 183 players who attempted at least 100 threes each season.
- Hassan Whiteside ranked third in both defensive rebounding percentage and overall rebounding percentage among players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 or more games.
- Whiteside averaged just 11.4 points + rebounds + assists in the playoffs, down from 26.4 in the regular season. That was the biggest drop among 175 players who played in at least four postseason games.
- Justise Winslow shot 38 percent on 129 3-point attempts after shooting just 24 percent on 164 attempts through his first two seasons in the league.
NBA TV’s Heat preview premieres at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 3.