One of the many issues the Washington Wizards had during the waning years of the Beal-Wall era from 2017-20 was that they were woeful during the clutch. Perhaps it was the fact that the offense was very predictable in those last few minutes of regulation.
Be it as it may, the Wizards are the NBA’s top clutch team this year: they have won 14 of their 17 games that were close enough to be considered clutch wins (I think this means games where the point differential was at most 5 during the last 5 minutes of regulation — of course, NBA.com doesn’t bother to define this in their data page).
Heck, had it not been for DeMar
DeFrozen DeCloser the Wizards would have won a mind-blowing 15 of their 17 close games. This is ahead of star-studded teams as: second-place Phoenix Suns, third-place Golden State Warriors, and fourth-place Brooklyn Nets. Fifth are Memphis, six are the Bulls.
How, on Earth, did the middling .500 Wizards manage to top the league’s best teams in this aspect?
The answer is: I’m not sure.
Is it Kyle Kuzma with his quick release and ice-cold blood who seems to be the go-to 3-pointer shooter time and time again? In Washington’s most recent game against the Hornets, he made 3 threes in less than 90 seconds in the clutch. A couple of days before that, Kuzma made the nearly-game-winning three with 3 seconds left in regulation. Against the Pistons in Detroit, he nailed a corner three to seal the game in overtime with 0.6 seconds left. And the list goes on with him.
Is it Spencer Dinwiddie? According to tracking data he’s been shooting 54.5 percent from the field — this is good for 10th out of the 74 players that played at least 10 clutch games and attempted at least 0.5 threes in each game during the clutch. He’s also 75 percent from deep in the clutch.
Or, maybe, it’s Wes Unseld Jr.? In a Nov. 10 win over the Cavaliers, he drew two beautiful ATO plays to have Beal draw a double-team and free Kuzma for two clutch 3-pointers that swung the lead over to the Wizards.
Let us know in the comments what you believe is the X-factor for the Wizards in the clutch.