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Is LeBron James Still Excelling in the Clutch? / BallTribe
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Is LeBron James Still Excelling in the Clutch?

The Miami Heat lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 92-90 on Thursday, January 10. Trailing by two on the game's final play, LeBron James dribbled at the top of the key in search of a driving lane.There wasn't one, so he passed to an open Chris Bosh instead. Bosh had converted seven of his previous seven field-goal attempts prior to receiving the ball from James.In an effort to find a better shot, or go for the win, Bosh then passed to Mario Chalmers for an open three. Chalmers missed, the Heat lost and LeBron's ability to excel in the clutch again became questioned.At this point in his career, however, there is no reason it should be.Statistically speaking, the term "clutch" is defined as plays made in the fourth quarter or overtime with less than five minutes left and neither team ahead by more than five points.In this particular clutch situation against Portland, James did not attempt a shot. But when measuring the 2012-13 season as a whole, James has excelled in the clutch even more than he did last year. While taking what the defense gives him in clutch situations, James is shooting a higher percentage than he did last year while also making more field goals.  LeBron James is taking what the defense gives him in clutch situations this season.There was nowhere James could have possibly gone with the basketball as time expired against the Portland Trail Blazers. As evidenced by the screen-shot above, he was being bracketed by two Trail Blazer defenders at the top of the key. There was also a third Blazer in help-side position guarding against the potential James' drive. Chris Bosh, meanwhile, is an All-Star who was not only open, but had previously been on fire heading into the final possession. Deferring to an open Bosh here is the best basketball play James could have made.Whether Bosh should have then deferred himself to Mario Chalmers, however, is up for debate.  James did enough last season to shed the "anti-clutch" label for good.LeBron James was not clutch as a Cleveland Cavalier during the 2010 playoff series with the Boston Celtics.He performed even less-clutch in the 2011 NBA Finals as a member of the Miami Heat. Last season, however, James did enough to shed that "anti-clutch" label for good. According Basketball-Reference.com's Shot Finder, James converted 39 clutch field goals during the regular season and playoffs combined last year.He ranked eighth in the NBA in that category, while also shooting a better percentage than both Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.  LeBron is excelling in the clutch this season and making more clutch shots than last year.The 39 clutch field goals James connected on last season came in 85 total games. That ratio equates to at least one clutch shot made in approximately 45 percent of the games he played.So far this season, in only 35 games, James has already converted 20 clutch field goals. According to NBA.com's Clutch Shooting Analysis, he's been specifically deadly in the non-restricted paint area. From that distance, James has made all three of his attempts in the clutch. At his current rate overall, LeBron is on pace to make 48 clutch shots this season by the 85-game mark.He is also shooting 45.5 percent in the clutch this year too—up from 42.9 percent last season.   The clutch shots James is attempting are also the correct basketball plays to make.When breaking down the clutch shots that James does attempt, the right basketball play is evident.As opposed to being tightly guarded by the Trail Blazers, the Atlanta Hawks decided to cover James with only one defender during "clutch-time" in the video above.With less than 30 seconds remaining, and the Heat up by only two points, James attacked his defender DeShawn Stevenson. LeBron dribbled left, no help came, and he knocked down a basket to put Miami up four.The Heat went on to beat Atlanta by six, 95-89.  LeBron ranks among the top clutch performers in the NBA again this season.The 20 clutch field goals James has made this season rank sixth in the NBA according to BasketballReference.com through Sunday. Kevin Durant has made only one more clutch field goal than James this year. Trailing LeBron in both clutch field goals made as well as shooting percentage, for example, are Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.Pierce has made 16 clutch field goals on 34 percent shooting. Bryant has shot 33 percent to make 14 and Anthony has connected on 12 of his 29 clutch field goals this season.  *All statistics are as of Sunday, January 13.Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com 458 days

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