If we polled a few NBA experts as well as some fans and asked them which player they would like to have on their team with five minutes left in a close game to take them home; most would mention the names of Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony to name a few. These players’ performances in late game situations make it as such that we just naturally trust them to deliver with games hanging in the balance.
Mind you, relying on big names can at times fool even the most astute basketball mind.
Indeed, one of the biggest traps in professional basketball is that fans and even media members fall in love with nationally televised games and use them as benchmarks for the performance of stars. For instance, hitting or missing a game-winning shot on a Sunday game against the Lakers is not the same as succeeding or failing in crunch time against the Cavaliers on a Monday night. The game that was played in front of the larger audience was seen by more people and thus is much more likely to be cited as evidence than all of the obscure games that take up the regular season.
This partly explains why most people were shocked to find out that the New Orleans Hornets (who rarely show up on national television) have had the best crunch time offense in the league for the past few seasons.
In a nutshell, this is one of the main reasons why Monta Ellis rarely gets any praise for his performances down the stretch of games: not many are paying attention. Indeed, Ellis is viewed as an inefficient guard trying to emulate Allen Iverson’s shot strategy (you know, put enough shots up and some are bound to go in) for the sake of accumulating points. But if we dig deeper, there is something to be said about Monta’s scoring prowess in tight late game situations.
Ian Levy did a brilliant job of illustrating this when he compared various NBA players’ ability to create and convert shots in the clutch (82games.com defines clutch as the last five minutes of a game or overtime with neither team leading by more than five points). He stated for Monta:
I have to admit I was shocked to see Monta Ellis score so efficiently in these situations. It’s especially amazing since his TS% for the entire season was just 53.6%, 6.2 points lower than what he shot in clutch situations.
Have a look at Levy’s piece, it helps give some perspective on not only Ellis but also some other players in the league and how they fare as far as creating shots down the stretch of games.