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Seizing the Moment in Crucial Games

Posted by Neil Paine on May 27, 2010

After watching Marv Albert's fantastic interview with President Obama a few nights ago, I ended up unearthing this old video, Marv's dramatic setup for Game 5 of the 1997 Finals:

Marv was at his best in that clip, practically lending biblical overtones to John Stockton's feats in Game 4, and I was so inspired by Albert's proclamation that Stock "seized the moment like few others in NBA history" that I wanted to find the players who had the best career performances in crucial games like that Game 4.

The trouble is, how does one define a "crucial game"? Obviously, elimination games are one definition. However, there are plenty of other games in a series that can also be defined as "crucial", including situations like Stockton above, where the team was down 2-1 and could be looking down the barrel of a 3-1 deficit with a loss, practically making the game an elimination game.

An easy definition I settled on for "crucial" games would be this: Game 3 or later in a 7-game series; Conference Semifinals or later; series tied, within 1 game either way, or an elimination game for the trailing team. Certainly there's plenty of room for argument there, and eventually I want to do a full-fledged study on the within-series "leverage index" of each game in a series, but for now I think that's an acceptable definition of "crucial" games.

Our production metric here will be Hollinger's Game Score, which isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but is easy to compute and does a decent job of capturing the conventional wisdom about player performance. Since 1991, here are the NBA leaders in career crucial game performance (min. 5 career crucial games played):

Player g gs mp fg fga fg3 fg3a ft fta orb trb ast stl blk tov pf pts GmSc/G
Elton Brand 5 5 233 60 111 0 1 29 36 24 54 25 4 17 10 12 149 27.4
Michael Jordan 41 41 1736 483 1047 38 109 315 373 66 252 220 72 32 128 119 1319 22.7
Hakeem Olajuwon 29 29 1237 318 588 1 6 126 165 71 323 130 46 103 101 117 763 22.4
LeBron James 22 22 996 213 499 28 108 211 286 30 193 169 33 18 94 57 665 22.2
Dwyane Wade 15 15 622 132 259 4 14 147 182 14 73 84 29 13 53 47 415 21.7
Dirk Nowitzki 28 28 1248 240 536 28 83 244 274 54 347 91 35 25 70 87 752 21.4
Reggie Lewis 9 9 381 100 195 1 6 46 56 17 44 35 16 10 12 29 247 21.2
Amare Stoudemire 10 10 372 99 186 1 3 83 106 41 98 7 6 20 27 39 282 21.0
Charles Barkley 27 27 1133 229 473 17 72 178 231 108 358 113 43 19 80 83 653 20.9
Magic Johnson 8 8 356 43 101 9 33 62 68 9 64 103 9 0 34 16 157 20.6
Tim Duncan 44 44 1827 390 810 2 15 303 431 162 621 155 28 123 142 147 1085 20.4
Shaquille O'Neal 60 60 2334 560 975 0 0 347 669 238 698 151 34 128 164 238 1467 19.2
Allen Iverson 19 19 873 205 540 38 106 125 164 21 91 120 42 6 53 44 573 18.8
Deron Williams 7 7 281 54 119 10 33 38 45 4 28 72 10 5 28 22 156 18.4
Kevin Garnett 23 23 922 203 410 5 16 99 119 55 275 83 26 33 61 74 510 18.1
Dwight Howard 14 14 561 100 174 0 1 80 137 61 209 20 7 45 41 62 280 17.8
Karl Malone 43 43 1779 380 804 0 9 236 320 106 431 188 54 24 112 153 996 17.5
Kevin Johnson 22 20 820 157 335 5 16 141 169 15 63 176 21 7 54 50 460 17.1
Shawn Marion 21 21 906 164 336 32 81 49 60 62 247 27 32 31 24 58 409 17.1
Kobe Bryant 50 46 2075 452 1049 75 221 282 354 52 266 243 70 40 137 155 1261 17.0
Brad Daugherty 10 10 412 65 121 0 0 60 77 25 99 34 6 13 22 30 190 16.9
Vince Carter 13 13 531 117 267 22 68 55 76 28 73 69 16 11 32 43 311 16.8
Steve Nash 34 34 1363 241 505 58 142 124 137 30 147 331 27 9 125 77 664 16.7
Shawn Kemp 22 22 795 153 293 0 4 126 160 88 235 56 32 33 76 100 432 16.3
Pau Gasol 18 18 727 125 229 0 0 68 97 49 185 59 11 36 35 53 318 16.3
Baron Davis 8 8 336 49 121 21 61 35 59 6 30 53 30 3 16 35 154 16.2
Joe Dumars 5 5 199 36 80 4 11 24 28 8 22 30 4 0 7 9 100 16.2
Larry Nance 10 10 400 75 149 0 1 32 37 25 87 28 11 22 15 39 182 15.7
Patrick Ewing 41 41 1641 340 720 5 12 173 254 102 450 74 33 97 102 158 858 15.1
Clyde Drexler 28 28 1141 202 475 26 115 137 175 65 194 146 44 19 84 102 567 15.0
Scottie Pippen 50 50 2029 333 744 41 145 202 295 125 436 263 95 41 159 166 909 14.9
Chris Webber 17 17 638 145 280 1 7 40 69 44 148 65 15 13 41 60 331 14.6
Paul Pierce 26 26 1059 162 402 30 111 180 220 20 166 119 32 16 76 86 534 14.4
Manu Ginobili 37 14 1219 191 426 62 161 197 233 49 184 140 70 14 76 124 641 14.4
Jason Kidd 24 24 1041 136 358 35 138 74 99 45 197 214 37 9 78 62 381 14.3
Terry Porter 17 14 608 91 187 16 50 68 84 10 56 103 19 2 27 32 266 14.0
Anfernee Hardaway 12 12 478 77 177 21 55 46 60 13 41 71 18 8 31 38 221 13.9
Jeff Malone 6 6 240 56 110 1 2 19 23 6 24 18 1 0 10 15 132 13.8
Kevin McHale 9 0 292 68 131 3 8 41 53 14 52 16 3 4 11 35 180 13.8
Tim Hardaway 15 15 557 91 237 30 100 53 68 4 48 108 28 4 36 28 265 13.6
Latrell Sprewell 23 22 997 181 436 20 63 108 125 19 110 75 38 9 58 47 490 13.5
James Worthy 7 7 285 59 123 1 8 15 20 8 29 30 12 0 13 17 134 13.5
Hot Rod Williams 10 0 334 49 90 0 0 54 67 19 63 33 9 13 23 36 152 13.4
Richard Hamilton 44 44 1819 358 791 21 70 223 256 60 189 160 37 15 132 148 960 13.3
Chauncey Billups 46 46 1809 229 605 83 253 254 289 31 171 260 48 8 89 125 795 13.2
Reggie Miller 42 42 1595 267 598 106 256 189 211 16 121 94 42 11 77 83 829 13.2
John Stockton 35 35 1257 153 347 23 82 95 111 29 115 335 66 11 96 100 424 13.0
Ricky Pierce 11 11 345 79 165 8 22 47 49 11 27 26 9 5 18 27 213 13.0
Xavier McDaniel 5 5 205 41 82 2 5 15 21 13 30 11 4 1 12 14 99 12.9
Kerry Kittles 14 14 487 81 182 20 65 32 42 16 62 39 29 8 10 29 214 12.9
Danny Manning 5 4 159 32 65 0 1 25 31 11 36 8 4 3 11 14 89 12.8
Horace Grant 36 36 1387 183 327 0 3 84 118 104 323 82 39 52 44 119 450 12.8
Mike Bibby 19 19 746 122 273 28 78 57 69 13 70 97 25 7 43 52 329 12.7
Jason Terry 16 15 631 120 268 27 83 39 49 11 48 59 21 5 27 46 306 12.6
Dikembe Mutombo 25 21 960 94 187 0 0 106 147 100 273 25 20 70 50 76 294 12.5
Mark Price 10 10 337 64 136 16 38 24 27 3 19 63 13 1 28 24 168 12.4
Lamar Odom 21 12 729 106 212 14 29 80 112 48 196 40 12 23 34 68 306 12.4
Rajon Rondo 19 19 690 110 251 6 28 34 61 32 119 134 39 4 46 62 260 12.1
Ray Allen 31 31 1244 194 457 68 192 105 114 27 125 112 25 12 71 78 561 12.0
Josh Howard 17 17 634 114 249 10 48 59 78 41 150 31 22 7 43 66 297 11.8
David Robinson 29 29 908 138 316 0 3 134 198 92 282 45 33 53 56 114 410 11.7
Bill Laimbeer 5 5 147 27 52 0 4 16 18 16 42 6 3 1 6 16 70 11.6
Corey Maggette 5 2 137 23 51 2 8 28 29 2 52 11 3 1 13 17 76 11.4
Avery Johnson 16 15 610 87 173 0 4 37 55 11 29 130 22 2 43 50 211 11.4
Antoine Walker 15 15 597 90 203 27 80 40 52 15 98 47 21 7 40 52 247 11.3
Aaron Brooks 5 5 177 31 65 10 21 22 22 1 13 14 3 1 17 13 94 11.3
Jeff Hornacek 31 31 1110 148 331 33 69 122 143 20 111 106 35 5 42 85 451 11.2
Doug Christie 18 18 689 77 188 19 56 65 74 23 116 78 31 8 42 64 238 11.2
Jerome Kersey 19 13 615 105 219 0 1 57 79 54 123 43 28 15 31 77 267 11.2
Rashard Lewis 14 14 569 81 185 27 73 49 66 13 83 33 11 6 34 34 238 11.1
Mark Aguirre 5 1 138 29 58 3 10 20 24 3 19 11 3 1 8 14 81 11.0
Glenn Robinson 12 9 378 83 178 13 33 31 36 11 67 23 4 13 30 22 210 11.0
Boris Diaw 12 9 396 70 146 2 6 27 43 24 75 49 11 14 31 36 169 10.9
Mookie Blaylock 10 10 400 51 133 20 60 13 21 10 47 68 17 5 30 19 135 10.8
Ed Pinckney 9 3 249 31 44 0 1 24 28 32 61 5 6 4 3 24 86 10.8
Brad Miller 5 0 166 21 40 0 3 14 19 13 42 15 5 4 9 20 56 10.7
Gary Payton 41 33 1449 203 468 35 112 89 114 39 154 225 55 9 70 117 530 10.7
Arvydas Sabonis 9 9 296 38 79 3 10 27 28 9 69 17 9 5 6 31 106 10.6
Eddie Jones 16 13 594 80 188 24 65 40 48 15 70 44 19 12 17 49 224 10.6
Dee Brown 9 0 246 49 90 0 5 11 16 5 33 53 4 5 15 24 109 10.6
Rik Smits 31 31 843 202 377 0 0 101 118 37 164 43 17 21 61 130 505 10.6
Hersey Hawkins 17 16 602 61 140 19 51 61 70 25 71 42 26 9 23 39 202 10.5
Mo Williams 8 8 320 41 100 16 38 32 37 5 30 32 6 0 18 29 130 10.5
Nick Anderson 9 9 343 39 87 15 36 21 28 8 40 28 14 4 14 22 114 10.5
Vlade Divac 32 32 1003 149 313 1 8 114 165 88 247 62 28 47 64 120 413 10.5
Antonio Daniels 7 4 219 35 73 2 12 26 32 3 16 17 4 2 5 9 98 10.5
Mark Jackson 29 29 912 103 242 31 80 51 60 34 123 223 29 0 69 59 288 10.3
Jameer Nelson 6 4 181 28 55 11 20 16 23 4 22 31 0 1 14 20 83 10.3
Derek Harper 18 17 656 84 194 30 85 36 48 12 53 94 31 2 38 59 234 10.2
Dennis Scott 10 10 367 57 129 29 72 17 22 3 31 22 11 3 16 29 160 10.2
John Starks 34 25 1207 181 425 70 190 99 137 18 104 162 43 2 93 124 531 10.1
Aaron McKie 20 15 755 94 226 18 50 51 63 17 104 100 23 4 41 56 257 10.1
Richard Jefferson 21 15 737 111 245 12 32 76 106 18 136 52 21 10 50 55 310 10.1
Glen Rice 10 10 384 63 126 15 36 23 27 6 46 17 4 1 20 29 164 10.1
Carlos Boozer 7 7 268 45 103 0 0 25 32 14 85 14 2 2 20 31 115 10.0
Larry Bird 8 6 270 40 95 1 11 15 18 6 40 38 8 2 9 16 96 9.9
Detlef Schrempf 18 14 615 97 188 11 30 52 70 20 90 45 13 2 42 50 257 9.8
Toni Kukoc 26 11 738 111 237 24 69 52 67 23 99 93 23 9 30 62 298 9.6
Allan Houston 19 19 805 132 308 25 62 65 75 6 58 47 10 6 55 45 354 9.5
Tim Thomas 18 9 572 76 167 33 76 47 58 22 101 33 10 11 23 67 232 9.5

How about per-minute performance? (Minimum 100 career crucial minutes):

Player g gs mp Pts/48 Reb/48 Ast/48 TS% GmSc/48
Elton Brand 5 5 233 30.6 11.1 5.1 58.7 28.2
Amare Stoudemire 10 10 372 36.4 12.6 0.9 60.6 27.1
Michael Jordan 41 41 1736 36.5 7.0 6.1 54.5 25.7
Hakeem Olajuwon 29 29 1237 29.6 12.5 5.0 57.8 25.2
Dwyane Wade 15 15 622 32.0 5.6 6.5 61.2 25.1
Reggie Lewis 9 9 381 31.1 5.5 4.4 56.2 24.0
Charles Barkley 27 27 1133 27.7 15.2 4.8 56.8 23.9
Shaquille O'Neal 60 60 2334 30.2 14.4 3.1 57.8 23.7
Tim Duncan 44 44 1827 28.5 16.3 4.1 54.3 23.5
LeBron James 22 22 996 32.0 9.3 8.1 53.2 23.5
Chris Paul 4 4 160 25.2 6.9 12.3 52.4 23.2
Dirk Nowitzki 28 28 1248 28.9 13.3 3.5 57.3 23.0
Magic Johnson 8 8 356 21.2 8.6 13.9 60.0 22.2
Kevin Johnson 22 20 820 26.9 3.7 10.3 56.2 22.1
Deron Williams 7 7 281 26.7 4.8 12.3 56.2 22.0
Kevin Garnett 23 23 922 26.5 14.3 4.3 55.2 21.7
Shawn Kemp 22 22 795 26.1 14.2 3.4 59.4 21.6
Dwight Howard 14 14 561 23.9 17.9 1.7 59.8 21.3
Vin Baker 3 3 110 26.2 11.8 2.2 51.5 21.0
Manu Ginobili 37 14 1219 25.2 7.2 5.5 60.6 20.9
Paul Millsap 7 0 132 22.9 14.2 1.5 62.4 20.8
Kevin McHale 9 0 292 29.6 8.5 2.6 58.3 20.4
Tony Allen 9 0 106 21.8 6.8 3.6 65.2 20.3
Karl Malone 43 43 1779 26.9 11.6 5.1 52.7 20.3
Cedric Ceballos 15 7 250 25.2 9.6 2.1 57.9 20.0
Corey Maggette 5 2 137 26.6 18.2 3.8 59.6 20.0
Steve Nash 34 34 1363 23.4 5.2 11.7 58.7 20.0
Ricky Pierce 11 11 345 29.6 3.8 3.6 57.1 19.9
Luol Deng 3 3 130 22.9 9.3 3.3 64.4 19.8
Vince Carter 13 13 531 28.1 6.6 6.2 51.8 19.7
Brad Daugherty 10 10 412 22.1 11.5 4.0 61.3 19.7
Kobe Bryant 50 46 2075 29.2 6.2 5.6 52.3 19.6
Allen Iverson 19 19 873 31.5 5.0 6.6 46.8 19.6
Joe Dumars 5 5 199 24.1 5.3 7.2 54.2 19.5
Danny Manning 5 4 159 26.9 10.9 2.4 56.6 19.4
Pau Gasol 18 18 727 21.0 12.2 3.9 58.5 19.3
Hot Rod Williams 10 0 334 21.8 9.1 4.7 63.6 19.2
Mark Aguirre 5 1 138 28.2 6.6 3.8 59.1 19.2
Shawn Marion 21 21 906 21.7 13.1 1.4 56.4 19.0
Bill Laimbeer 5 5 147 22.9 13.7 2.0 58.4 19.0
Larry Nance 10 10 400 21.8 10.4 3.4 55.1 18.9
Terry Porter 17 14 608 21.0 4.4 8.1 59.4 18.8
Travis Best 14 0 251 22.8 5.2 7.1 61.2 18.8
Rik Smits 31 31 843 28.8 9.3 2.4 58.9 18.7
Ed Pinckney 9 3 249 16.6 11.8 1.0 76.3 18.7
Chris Webber 17 17 638 24.9 11.1 4.9 53.3 18.7
Dee Brown 9 0 246 21.3 6.4 10.3 56.2 18.6
Baron Davis 8 8 336 22.0 4.3 7.6 52.4 18.6
Derrick Coleman 3 3 128 19.1 13.9 1.5 64.4 18.2
Patrick Ewing 41 41 1641 25.1 13.2 2.2 51.6 18.2

Which players had the biggest difference between their career regular-season per-game Game Score (since 1991) and their GmSc in crucial situations?

Player g GmSc/G rsGmSc/G Diff
Elton Brand 5 27.4 16.0 11.4
Reggie Lewis 9 21.2 14.6 6.5
Xavier McDaniel 5 12.9 7.8 5.1
Ed Pinckney 9 10.8 6.0 4.8
Hakeem Olajuwon 29 22.4 17.7 4.7
Amare Stoudemire 10 21.0 16.3 4.7
Ime Udoka 5 8.7 4.1 4.7
Jerome Kersey 19 11.2 6.6 4.6
Terry Porter 17 14.0 9.6 4.4
Shawn Kemp 22 16.3 11.9 4.4
Hot Rod Williams 10 13.4 9.1 4.3
Deron Williams 7 18.4 14.3 4.1
Joe Dumars 5 16.2 12.1 4.1
Aaron McKie 20 10.1 6.1 4.0
Antonio Daniels 7 10.5 6.6 3.9
Dirk Nowitzki 28 21.4 17.6 3.8
Quinton Ross 5 6.8 3.1 3.7
Mark Aguirre 5 11.0 7.3 3.7
Bill Laimbeer 5 11.6 8.1 3.6
Steve Nash 34 16.7 13.2 3.4
Jeff Malone 6 13.8 10.6 3.2
Ricky Pierce 11 13.0 9.9 3.1
Avery Johnson 16 11.4 8.3 3.1
Aaron Brooks 5 11.3 8.3 3.0
Kevin McHale 9 13.8 10.8 3.0
Baron Davis 8 16.2 13.3 3.0
Danny Manning 5 12.8 10.1 2.7
Boris Diaw 12 10.9 8.2 2.6
Mikki Moore 6 7.1 4.5 2.6
Tim Duncan 44 20.4 17.8 2.5
Dwight Howard 14 17.8 15.4 2.4
James Worthy 7 13.5 11.2 2.3
Manu Ginobili 37 14.4 12.1 2.3
Tim Thomas 18 9.5 7.3 2.2
Kerry Kittles 14 12.9 10.7 2.2
Shawn Marion 21 17.1 15.0 2.1
Dwyane Wade 15 21.7 19.6 2.1
Bryon Russell 29 8.0 6.0 2.1
Dikembe Mutombo 25 12.5 10.5 2.0
Richard Hamilton 44 13.3 11.3 2.0
Vinnie Johnson 5 8.9 6.9 2.0
Dennis Scott 10 10.2 8.2 2.0
DeSagana Diop 11 4.6 2.6 1.9
Dee Brown 9 10.6 8.7 1.9
John Starks 34 10.1 8.4 1.7
Charles Barkley 27 20.9 19.2 1.7
Doug Christie 18 11.2 9.4 1.7
Magic Johnson 8 20.6 18.9 1.7
Pete Chilcutt 6 5.3 3.6 1.7
Andrew Lang 6 7.2 5.6 1.6
Anthony Bonner 8 0.6 5.9 -5.3
Alonzo Mourning 27 8.1 13.4 -5.3
Mike James 12 1.9 7.3 -5.4
Lawrence Funderburke 5 -0.5 5.0 -5.5
Gary Trent 6 0.6 6.1 -5.5
Mehmet Okur 19 4.9 10.5 -5.6
Bonzi Wells 9 2.6 8.2 -5.7
Keith Van Horn 17 4.7 10.5 -5.8
Beno Udrih 6 0.6 6.5 -5.9
Carlos Delfino 6 -0.8 5.2 -5.9
Sedale Threatt 7 3.5 9.6 -6.1
Kevin Willis 20 2.6 9.0 -6.4
Devin Harris 12 3.6 10.0 -6.4
Michael Olowokandi 6 -1.3 5.3 -6.6
Clarence Weatherspoon 5 2.6 9.6 -7.0
Chris Mullin 14 6.2 13.2 -7.0
Antawn Jamison 5 6.8 13.9 -7.1
David Robinson 29 11.7 18.9 -7.2
Larry Bird 8 9.9 17.2 -7.3
Darrell Armstrong 11 0.4 7.8 -7.4
Terrell Brandon 9 4.2 11.9 -7.7
Frank Brickowski 6 -0.7 8.2 -8.9
Rolando Blackman 6 0.3 9.4 -9.1
Gerald Wallace 5 0.0 10.8 -10.9
Stephon Marbury 5 1.2 14.3 -13.2

And finally, what about per-minute increases in crucial games?

Player g mp GmSc/48 rsGmSc/48 Diff
Elton Brand 5 233 28.2 20.7 7.5
Tony Allen 9 106 20.3 13.4 6.9
Travis Best 14 251 18.8 13.1 5.7
Quinton Ross 5 123 13.4 7.7 5.6
Reggie Lewis 9 381 24.0 18.6 5.4
Vin Baker 3 110 21.0 15.8 5.2
Bill Laimbeer 5 147 19.0 13.8 5.1
Mikki Moore 6 125 16.4 12.0 4.4
Hot Rod Williams 10 334 19.2 14.8 4.4
Theo Ratliff 6 142 17.3 13.0 4.3
Amare Stoudemire 10 372 27.1 22.9 4.3
Daniel Gibson 14 288 14.5 10.5 4.0
Pete Myers 7 109 13.7 9.9 3.9
Mark Aguirre 5 138 19.2 15.5 3.7
Ed Pinckney 9 249 18.7 15.0 3.7
Chris Kaman 4 103 17.7 14.1 3.6
Joe Dumars 5 199 19.5 16.0 3.6
Dee Brown 9 246 18.6 15.1 3.5
Paul Millsap 7 132 20.8 17.3 3.5
DeSagana Diop 11 198 12.1 8.8 3.3
Luol Deng 3 130 19.8 16.6 3.2
Anthony Carter 9 164 14.0 10.8 3.2
Vladimir Radmanovic 12 260 15.3 12.3 3.1
Boris Diaw 12 396 15.8 13.1 2.7
Jerome Kersey 19 615 16.6 13.9 2.6
Deron Williams 7 281 22.0 19.4 2.6
Kerry Kittles 14 487 17.8 15.4 2.4
Blue Edwards 6 142 16.0 13.6 2.4
Antonio Daniels 7 219 16.0 14.0 2.1
Shawn Kemp 22 795 21.6 19.6 2.0
Isaiah Rider 4 135 16.8 14.9 1.9
Speedy Claxton 10 122 15.6 13.9 1.7
Trevor Ariza 14 314 15.8 14.1 1.7
Mike Brown 6 121 11.5 9.9 1.6
Adrian Griffin 18 226 12.7 11.1 1.6
Corey Maggette 5 137 20.0 18.5 1.5
Todd MacCulloch 21 211 17.4 15.9 1.5
George Lynch 13 329 13.7 12.2 1.4
Michael Cage 11 202 13.7 12.3 1.3
Grant Long 4 136 14.5 13.2 1.3
Jason Maxiell 9 130 15.2 13.9 1.3
John Salley 11 133 13.9 12.6 1.3
Joe Kleine 14 190 10.8 9.6 1.3
Danny Manning 5 159 19.4 18.2 1.2
Charlie Ward 22 534 13.9 12.7 1.1
Hakeem Olajuwon 29 1237 25.2 24.1 1.1
Mickael Pietrus 14 337 13.5 12.4 1.1
Terry Porter 17 608 18.8 17.8 1.0
Jeff Malone 6 240 16.6 15.6 1.0
Marquis Daniels 15 144 14.5 13.6 1.0
Keith Van Horn 17 404 9.5 16.0 -6.4
Eddie Johnson 18 350 10.1 16.7 -6.5
Brent Barry 23 429 8.2 14.8 -6.6
Nenad Krstic 3 107 6.7 13.5 -6.7
Terry Teagle 9 122 7.8 14.6 -6.9
Terrell Brandon 9 147 12.2 19.2 -6.9
Sam Mitchell 14 138 5.5 12.7 -7.1
Sasha Pavlovic 14 287 1.2 8.4 -7.2
Kenny Anderson 8 225 9.4 16.6 -7.2
Kevin Willis 20 281 8.9 16.2 -7.3
Chuck Person 11 229 6.1 13.5 -7.4
Bill Wennington 15 110 3.5 11.1 -7.7
Cuttino Mobley 5 214 6.1 13.8 -7.7
Ronald Murray 9 200 4.8 12.6 -7.8
Larry Bird 8 270 14.1 22.0 -7.9
Antawn Jamison 5 162 10.1 18.1 -8.0
Chris Mullin 14 365 11.3 19.5 -8.1
Carlos Boozer 7 268 12.5 20.7 -8.2
David Robinson 29 908 18.0 26.3 -8.3
Danny Ferry 16 122 3.0 11.4 -8.4
Chris Dudley 9 109 1.8 10.3 -8.5
Hubert Davis 20 277 2.5 11.6 -9.0
Rasho Nesterovic 6 109 3.0 12.4 -9.5
Devin Harris 12 313 6.6 17.4 -10.8
Walter McCarty 16 102 -3.1 9.6 -12.6

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25 Responses to “Seizing the Moment in Crucial Games”

  1. Neil Paine Says:

    Shocking result #1: Vince Carter has performed at the same level in career crucial games as Kobe Bryant.

  2. P Middy Says:

    Any chance of weighing the Gamescore with wins/losses? That way Jordan's 41 amazing playoff performances (I'm guessing most were wins on the path to championships) outrank Brand's 5 amazing but useless outings?

  3. Jason J Says:

    Can you add this Disclaimer: "Larry Bird's at the bottom because this test only goes back to the crippled Bird '91 & '92 playoffs." ?

    Also, that's m'boy Reggie Lewis way up that list! Interesting mix of players. Not surprised that the post '91 gamescores in these situations show Jordan and Hakeem with the most sustained excellence. Knowing how long Shaq has played, and how poorly he's played the last few seasons, it's impressive that he's as high as he is.

  4. P Middy Says:

    Shaq's hayday playoff numbers were filthy, disgusting, discombobulating even.

  5. Trev Says:

    Any chance at looking at game scoe in "crucial" vs. "non-crucial" playoff games?

  6. EA Says:

    Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon are not surprises near the top of almost every list. However, there must be something wrong with the way these lists are calculated. Elton Brand should not ever be on the top of any list regarding performances in crucial games. Elton Brand has only won a handful of playoff series. I believe this is yet another case that John "Stats are the only thing that matters" Hollinger needs to explain.

  7. Neil Paine Says:

    You do know it's possible to play really well and for your team to still lose, right? Here are Brand's last 8 playoff games:

    MP FG FGA FT FTA ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
    48 16 26 4 4 7 9 1 0 1 1 2 36
    43 14 21 2 3 2 12 3 1 5 2 2 30
    55 10 23 13 17 7 15 5 0 5 4 4 33
    46 13 24 4 5 5 9 8 1 1 2 0 30
    42 7 17 6 7 3 9 8 2 5 1 4 20
    43 10 16 7 10 6 10 2 3 1 3 3 27
    42 18 22 4 6 5 9 3 0 4 1 2 40
    42 9 17 3 4 2 13 3 1 1 2 2 21
  8. Jason J Says:

    He put those numbers up against the Suns & Nuggets, right?

  9. Dwight Howard Says:

    Marv always does a good job, but the overdramatic music and fonts ruined that video for me.

  10. Ricardo Says:

    "Marv always does a good job"

    No offense to you, Da-wight, but I'm not a Marv fan. I cannot understand why he's been such a respected broadcaster. I mean, he's not horrible, but I just don't hear anything beyond compentency in his broadcasts.

    Mike Breen is head and shoulders above Marv. Dan Shulman is better than Marv. Even Kevin Harlan is better.

  11. themojojedi Says:

    Shocking result #2: Neil Paine takes an unnecessary dig at Kobe Bryant in every single post he has ever written. Sad.

  12. Neil Paine Says:

    Tell Kobe to put up better numbers in crucial games, and I won't have to keep pointing out these inconvenient truths to you...

  13. themojojedi Says:

    Neil, these aren't inconvenient truths to me at all. I'm well equipt with the skills to interpret quantitative analysis on my own, and also have a good understanding of Kobe's various successes and failures. There are spectacular examples of both to be sure.

    But even if the numbers you rely on support your snide Kobe remarks, that doesn't make it any more professional to keep making them for your personal jollies. Share the hate like a classy analyst would! How about an expose on the advanced statistics of Carmelo Anthony and how in the last 3 seasons (and 5 of his first 7) he has not ranked higher than 3rd in WS.... on his own team!!! How many times has he ranked in the NBA Top 50 in WS/48? Is his lack of production an inconvenient truth that needs to be revealed to Nuggets fans?

    I love the site and don't really want to have a go at you, but there's a big difference between churning out numbers and making thoughtful,unbiased, useful inferences about player performance. Make an effort to better understand and incorporate important things like context into your analysis, like someone with a greater appreciation of statistical inference would.

    For example, you inserted a specific slam directed toward Kobe's 2008 Game 6 vs Boston in your "Elimination Chokes" blog, neglecting to mention that a large proportion of Kobe's negative Win Shares were due to DWS (3rd worst in terms of DWS) brought on by him playing heavy minutes against Boston's offensive onslaught. His OWS wasn't even in the worst 50. His ORtg was in the Top 15 of the listed games.

    If we are just going to take the case of Kobe versus Vince in crucial games: How many of Kobe's "crucial games" were when he was 18,19 year old bench player? How many of Kobe's games were produced at the highest level of competition (The Finals) and how many of Vince's? How many of Kobe's games were up against some of the statistically toughest defenses of all-time (99 Spurs 95.0 DRtg, 04 Spurs 94.1 DRtg, 04 Pistons 95.4 DRtg, 08 Celtics 98.9 DRtg) or other tough defenses (03 Spurs 99.7 DRtg, 04 Rockets 99.0 DRtg, 04 Wolves 99.7 DRtg etc)? How are Kobe's averages effected by the admittedly horrible Detroit series in '04? How about taking a look at the distribution of Gamescores, not just the average.

  14. Neil Paine Says:

    Dude, stop. I wrote an ode to Kobe's performance just a week ago:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=6033

    I've criticized Carmelo's advanced stats before:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=3855

    It's ridiculous that I am apparently not allowed to point out anything negative about Kobe without Laker fans getting on my case about it... Do you think I put together this post specifically to slam Bryant? I had no idea who was going to come out looking good or bad beforehand, and I merely expressed my surprise that Bryant (a player many regard as "clutch") would have the same career performance in critical games as Vince Carter (a player many regard as a choker). Are there more context to these numbers? Sure. But that's beyond the scope of this post.

    You seem to think I'm going after Kobe on purpose... But did it ever occur to you that he fails to show up as highly on these lists as you want for a different reason?

  15. Ryan Says:

    Anybody remember Game 5? ;)

  16. Neil Paine Says:

    The second half of Game 5? But I'm not done arguing yet!

    FYI: 45 of Kobe's 50 "crucial" games came in the year 2000 or later.

  17. themojojedi Says:

    I don't have any burning desire for Kobe to show up highly on these lists, nor do I think you have any ulterior motives before or while you're creating them. I don't mind what you point out about Kobe, negative or otherwise, its just the number of snide jabs you repeatedly and almost exclusively take at him that irks me (as well as other Laker fans I take it). I don't recall getting on your case before though, just the straw that broke the camel's back.

    Also, your last question seems to be suggesting that I have some delusional view of Kobe and that with your lists you're helping me see the error of my ways. Don't lump me and all Kobe/Laker fans into some "Kobe=GOAT, Kobe's never had a bad game" loony bin. Is context not a reason worth discussing for Kobe's position on this list and others? Take a look at the breakdown of playoff defenses (statistically by DRtg, EFG% defense etc ,and also qualitatively by All-D selections for perimeter defenders,All-D selections + DPOY for interior defenders) that Kobe has faced in his career vs the defenses faced by other elite perimeter scorers of this generation and the past. The difference is not insignificant.

    I regret, and apologise for, taking a stab at the general quality of your analysis because I do enjoy reading your posts and have noticed that you are very good about taking on feedback and making adjustments to improve your methodology. This is an admirable quality which it seems few possess though many would benefit from.

  18. Neil Paine Says:

    Thanks. And I apologize for assuming you were one of "those" irrational Laker fans. I also apologize if it seems like I exclusively take shots at Kobe -- I can assure you that if, say, Carmelo Anthony was regarded by many to be the best player in the league, I would take shots at him often instead, since both have a reputation that is slightly higher than is deserved from their numbers. But Kobe is the guy that has that rep, not Carmelo, so he's the one whose mythology it seems like I'm constantly battling.

    For what it's worth, Kobe is having a great crucial game tonight, and would move up on this list if I ran it again tomorrow. And I'd like to investigate the quality of playoff defenses he's faced vs. that of other stars -- I might actually write that tomorrow. I guess I was upset because many people don't seem to understand that I only have a finite amount of time to write these posts, I've cranked out one a day since the playoffs started, and I do many other things for Sports-Reference beyond this blog (it's actually a small % of my total job).

    But it's OK, no hard feelings on my part. I'll try to take less of a "take him down a peg" approach to players like Bryant and Hakeem Olajuwon (guys whose reputations are slightly better than their stats) in the future.

    Btw - heckuva game, wouldn't you say? :)

  19. Jason J Says:

    I actually agree with Lakers fans (ewww!). I always like to drop the under 21 and over 33 seasons to try to find a more exemplary picture of a player's ability, because those too young and too old seasons skew things and aren't really what we mean when we ask, "how good is / was this player?". I ran the averages for Jordan and Kobe based on the first table, and both players appear to have been pressing a bit in these games.

    Jordan: 42.3min 32.2pts 6.2rbs 5.4asts 1.8stls .8blks 3.1tos 46%fg 35%fg3 84%ft
    Kobe: 41.5min 25.2pts 5.3rbs 4.9asts 1.4stls .8blks 2.7tos 43%fg 34%fg3 80%ft

    Now the sample size for Jordan is very select. '91 to '98 is almost entirely championship years. However, it also includes his uneven '95 playoffs after baseball and his '98 season where he was 35. Kobe's entire career is in here. They are both shooting about 2-3% lower than their playoff averages from the field with very close to their playoff averages in production (though I doubt Jordan's total playoff averages would be that low if we included the 1985-1990 seasons as well, so his drop off in "crucial" games may or may not be more pronounced than that).

    My point being, that when we include all of Kobe's seasons this way, we see that his drop off during these crucial games is almost non-existent. So if he's as good as ever in big games... that's not bad, right? Coming out basically even in big pressure situations is sort of a win as regards rising to the occasion (when we're assuming lesser players shrink). It's all MJ could manage.

  20. Neil Paine Says:

    Artest! Wow!

  21. themojojedi Says:

    Thanks Neil, I'm glad we cool :)

    I'm actually a Team Hakeem guy too, so let's not go there I guess.

    Amazing game tonight for sure, I've been convulsing for the last hour.

  22. DDA Says:

    Neil,

    One thing I've been trying to tell my friends about Kobe is despite his reputation as a "the best clutch player in the game"...just how many last minute winning playoff shots has he actually hit? I can't remember any. On LA's sports talk radio station, they have been talking about how loud Staples Center was after Artest hit his shot and comparing it to Fisher's last second dagger against the Spurs, Horry's big shots, etc. Nobody remembers any of Kobe's. Can you do an analysis on this and find out who really is the best at hitting last second winners in playoff games?

  23. Neil Paine Says:

    82games actually looked at that in 2009:

    http://www.82games.com/gamewinningshots.htm

  24. AYC Says:

    Hakeeeeem! Neck and neck with MJ....

  25. Joe Schaller Says:

    More great lists from Neil Paine. Notable is the starking contrast between Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. This also reinforces what any stats guy should already know, Kobe's "clutch" status is way overrated. The last list is most signficant and if you look at names with at least 10 games unexpected guys like Travis Best, Jerome Kersey, Shawn Kemp, Todd MacCulloch and Charlie Ward have very impressive numbers.