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Does Louis Williams' Clutch Buzzer Beater Negate His Terrible Game?


The abstract concept of clutchness is one that has defied statheads of every sport for years. The casual fan will tell you that David Ortiz is clutch. That John Elway is clutch. That Kobe Bryant is clutch. And usually they'll be right. But is there something tangible to clutchness? Does clutchness outweigh other factors? Or do we put too much stock in our brains to remember all the data rather than relying on a set of concrete statistics.

Two years ago in the NLDS, Ryan Howard was clutch because with two outs in the ninth innings, he ripped a Huston Street offering for a double that propelled the Phillies over the Rockies. Last year he watched a Brian Wilson slider for strike three in the NLCS that sent the Giants to the World Series. Is he clutch or not clutch?

Simply put, one game, one play, one moment does not statistically make a career. It can make you remember Tyus Edney for the rest of your life, but in the bigger picture, he was a very mediocre point guard that had a decent rookie year in the NBA and for better or worse has lived off that buzzer beater ever since. But he's still universally seen as making one of the most clutch plays of all time.

Rohan Cruyff from SB Nation and At The Hive wrote a phenomenal article about the NBA's best performers in clutch time a few months ago. 82 Games defines clutchness as being in the "4th quarter or overtime" with "less than 5 minutes left" and "neither team is ahead by more than 5 points". Which finally brings us to Sixers guard Louis Williams and his big shot against the Kings....after the jump.

According to this data provided by 82 Games, Lou has attempted approximately 24 shots per 48 minutes in clutch time, good for 22nd in the league. This makes sense, considering how often Doug Collins calls his number in the waning moments of the game. But should he? Let's dig deeper.

Generally seen as being clutch, one would think that naturally he performs well in the clutch. Not true. He shoots a Mendoza-like 27.9% from the field during clutch moments, significantly lower than his better-but-still-bad season percentage of 41%. And among players with at least 20 shots per 48, Lou's 27.9% is only higher than Daniel Gibson and Brandon Jennings. Thaddeus Young (57%), Elton Brand (55%) and Jrue Holiday (44%) are all much better options in crunch time, but Lou and Andre Iguodala (33%) get the bulk of the opportunities simply because they have gotten more opportunities.

Yesterday, Lou was zero-for-eight when Collins inserted him into the lineup down 3 with the ball. 0-8. He had already missed 8 shots that, had even just two gone in, the Sixers would be in a significantly different position. Not to forget the 3 turnovers he accrued in under 14 minutes of court time as well. So when Lou took the pass from Spencer Hawes, crossed over Samuel Dalembert and pulled up from 27 feet away, one could say that he was "due".

After the three went in, Lou missed three shots in a short run in overtime that took the Sixers out of their rhythm and instead played isolation games under the direction of Doug Collins. Lou finished the game tagged with an atrocious 1-12 shooting day and an astronomically high usage rate. If you're unfamiliar with usage rate, it basically gives you a percentage of team plays used by a player during the time he was on the court. Lou easily owns the highest rate on the Sixers at 27.8% for the season. I wrote about it a few months ago. Today, however, he managed to rack up a 52% usage rate - the highest I have ever seen. And he did it with terrifically inefficient results, save for one shot.

Did Lou hit a big shot at the end of regulation? Absolutely. It was one that only a few people in the NBA and in the world could make. And it sent the game into overtime where the Sixers had a chance to pull out a victory.

But this does not, by any means, make up for the catastrophically bad game he played otherwise. It's like if your friend started a fire that was burning your house down, then while everyone's getting out of there, he runs in and grabs your Blu Ray player. Pretty cool of him to do, and hey -- at least you've got your Blu Ray player. But that still leaves you houseless and without anything to watch said Blu Ray player on. And he was the main cause of the fire anyhow.

Louis Williams hits clutch shots for the Sixers frequently, because logic dictates that if he takes enough shots, he's bound to make a few. "Even a blind squirrel" and all that. Lou goes through stretches where he is a really good scorer and on a balanced team like this one, where there aren't many guys who can create for themselves regularly, an attacking scorer is needed. But Lou does it at such a wildly inefficient rate that when you add defense into the fold, he causes more harm than good.

People like Eric Snow will remember Lou nailing an awesome shot at the buzzer. They'll forget that he missed the other 11 shots he took and they certainly won't bother to waste time looking up the clutch statistics they so often allude to but never read up on. And Lou will continue to be seen as clutch because our eyes don't always tell the truth and our brains certainly don't retain all the right information.

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