Hornets NBA

When the Going gets Tough, Why don’t the Tough get Going?

As Charlotte stormed back from a 19 point deficit to take the lead from Brooklyn on Saturday night, the same thought probably raced through every Hornets fan brain. “At what point are we going to bottle this?” It’s practically inevitable at this point. Whether we go down or take a large lead early in the game, odds are the game is going down to the wire. And odds are, we aren’t going to come out on top.

Charlotte currently sits at 9-17 (Roughly 35%) when it comes to winning games in the clutch. That’s good for just 26th in the NBA. Tanking teams like Memphis and Cleveland are currently better than the Buzz are in the clutch. This should raise many eyebrows, what is going so wrong that would cause a potential playoff team to fold in the clutch night in and night out?

Over the weekend I saw a poll on twitter from Hornets fan site “Bring Back the Buzz” asking if Hornets All-Star point guard Kemba Walker is clutch. I assume this came out due to Walker having his game winning shot blocked (Should have been a foul) by Caris LeVert. At any rate, the results were pretty one sided in favor of the Hornets star.

I expected this poll to be swung the other way with most people thinking no. There isn’t really any reason for the casual fan to think he’s clutch with the Hornets record in close games this season. But like mostly every other person who voted, I voted yes, even though I knew he hadn’t been nearly as clutch as he’d been in the past. It seems like we haven’t had a Kemba buzzer beater in forever. So then like the NBA nerd I am, I dove into the stats to see what the numbers are saying.

They’re flattering for Kemba.

Out of all the starting guards in the league who have currently played at the very least 15 games –I thought that was a good amount– in the “clutch”, Walker ranks 13th in clutch time field goal percentage, shooting 42.9%. This is more efficient than guys like James Harden (41.2%), Russell Westbrook (31.7%) and Damian Lillard (30.8%). Walker is also shooting 40.5% from three, which would rank 10th with the filters I have set up. Again beating out the same three and also adding Kyrie Irving to that list.

Seems pretty good, but one would have to assume that those stars Kemba is ahead of are just shooting shots at a way more higher rate, causing their efficiencies to take a dip. While somewhat true, the guy who ranks 1st in attempted clutch field goals, AND attempted clutch three pointers is none other than Charlotte’s own Kemba Walker. So, at the rate and efficiency that he’s putting up shots I suppose you could say that Walker is still indeed “clutch”.

So, we can come to the conclusion that this problem is definitely not stemming from Walker, he’s doing his job to the best of his ability. So like every problem that’s Hornets related, it’s the rest of the team.

I mentioned before that the Hornets rank 26th in the NBA in win percentage during clutch games. The team is one spot up at 25th when it comes to field goal percentage (38.9%) and rank FIRST in attempted field goals in the clutch. A quick look at how the rest of the Hornets stack up in the clutch compared to Walker will easily point out what’s going wrong.

Nothing but air

Nic Batum –surprisingly enough– has the best FG% among Hornets starters at 44.4%, but he’s barely putting up half a shot (0.4 attempts) in the clutch. With the third most minutes on the team in the clutch, Batum is basically a bystander when the going gets tough. Not something you want to see from your highest paid guy.

Marvin Williams, who has the 2nd most minutes in the clutch behind Walker, and is putting the up the 3rd most shot attempts, is averaging 36.4% from the field and an ugly 22.2% from three. Even worse is Jeremy Lamb –who is having his clutch minutes taken by Malik Monk and Miles Bridges– is 2nd in field goal attempts, and has a FG% of 31.8% and is shooting 14.3% from three.

That? That’s bad.

Tony Parker has been efficient when used down the stretch (66.7 FG%) but somehow only ranks 11th in clutch minutes on the team. Bridges literally hasn’t made a shot in the clutch despite being 5th in minutes and Monk has been MEH, averaging 33% in both FG% and 3P%.

Basically, Kemba and Parker are good, Monk is OK, Bridges is in there for defense and everyone else should probably just not touch the ball.

But quick shout-out to Lamb for making this.

Judging by the stats, that might be the only shot he’s made this season in the clutch.

This problem goes back to the root of all of Charlotte’s problems. The highly known fact that no one on this team besides Walker is seen as a threat. During crunch time, it’s obvious what’s about to happen. Walker isolation, a play drawn up for Walker, Walker catch and shoot, whatever the case may be, the ball is going to be in Kemba’s hands, and if he absolutely can’t get a shot up (see the video above) he’ll give it up at the last second.

Defenses have the luxury to key in on him, and the Hornets can’t do anything about that. Lately Batum has been far more aggressive and I’ll give him credit for that, but it’s going to take a lot more than that to dig the Hornets out of this clutch hole.

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