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Analysis: How Clutch are the Nuggets?

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

When Gary Harris knocked down a dagger of a jump shot against the Cavaliers with 1:45 to play, it not only put that game away – the Nuggets fourth straight road victory – it was the latest example this season of a player making a big shot at a critical moment. And there have been many

“Our go-to guy,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, “is our open guy.”

With a 7-5 record, the Nuggets have been good in close games – contests decided by three points or less – all season long. And there are no doubt more to come as the Western Conference playoff race winds its way toward a frantic finish.

But what is the Nuggets DNA in tight contests?

It’s good, and getting better.

NBA.com keeps “clutch” statistics, defined as the last five minutes of a game, ahead or behind, with a five-point differential. The Nuggets have been in that specific type of situation 30 times this season, and have a 15-15 record. And they’ve been improving as the months have progressed, going 6-2 in clutch situations in their last eight opportunities.

HOW THE NUGGETS PERFORM WHEN TIME IS RUNNING OUT

*Clutch time in a game is defined as: 5 or fewer minutes, ahead or behind, with a 5-point differential

SEASON OVERALL (15-15):

Points average: 7.8

FG percentage: 42.6

3FG percentage: 28.3

FT percentage: 83.7

Turnovers: 1.4

LAST EIGHT (6-2):

Points average: 7.8

FG percentage: 47.7

3FG percentage: 42.9

FT percentage: 82.4

Turnovers: 1.6

Gary Harris leads the Nuggets with seven 3-pointers made in clutch situations. The biggest, of course, being his game-winning trey that beat Oklahoma City on Feb. 1. Second on that list is Will Barton, who has made four clutch time 3-pointers.

“The one guy that stands out to me that I’ve noticed a noticeable difference in his confidence, is Gary Harris,” Malone said. “Gary Harris, OKC. Gary Harris, step back on (LaMarcus) Aldridge. Gary Harris at Memphis the other night. Gary Harris, big three to go from four points to seven points. Gary is starting to say ‘Okay, I kind of like this.’ And that confidence is powerful.

“And you get that by doing it, by winning, by seeing it go through the net. It’s great to see because I think Gary becomes kind of a closer for us.”

As a team, the Nuggets are one of the best clutch time free throw shooting teams in the NBA. Leading that charge is Will Barton, who has made 24-of-26 free throws in the clutch, and Jamal Murray, who has made 13-of-14 clutch free throws.

WHO IS CLUTCH? WHAT THE NUGGETS DO IN THE CLUTCH
These are the Nuggets who have scored most in the clutch

Player PPG FG% Misc.
Paul Millsap 2.1 44.4 Team is 7-5 in his clutch situations
Will Barton 1.9 38.2 Shoots 92.3 percent in the clutch from FT
Jamal Murray 1.8 50.0 Has made 62 percent of his clutch 2s
Gary Harris 1.7 45.9 Leads team with 6 steals in clutch time
Nikola Jokić 1.3 34.8 Leads team with 11 assists in the clutch
M. Plumlee 1.1 61.5 Leads team with 2 blocks in the clutch
Devin Harris 0.9 60.0 Has two 3-pointers in the clutch w/Nuggets
Trey Lyles 0.7 45.5 Has 13 rebounds in clutch situations
Torrey Craig 0.2 50.0 Has played in 11 clutch situations this season
W. Chandler 0.2 14.3 Is second on the team with 15 clutch time boards

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.

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