Kawhi Leonard and the LA Clippers have to be better in the clutch

Kawhi Leonard hasn't been clutch this season.
Publish date:

Kawhi Leonard is a historically clutch basketball player, but this season he's been anything but that. 

The Clippers have lost plenty of games in the clutch this season, and it's hard to tell what to pinpoint that on. More specifically, they're 5-8 in these clutch moments. Take note, we are defining clutch as the final five minutes of a game where the point differential is 5 or less. 

Does the blame go solely on missing shots, poor play design, or something else? One thing is for sure though, there's definitely a combination of Kawhi Leonard missing good looks, and also taking bad looks. As a result, the team has a -17.9 clutch net rating, which the 2nd worst in the NBA.

People can make excuses for tired legs or morning times, which the Clippers have had. However, every other team is dealing with this, and their star players aren't ranking 78th in clutch offense. Here's a breakdown of some of the clutch stats for the Clippers:

Kawhi Leonard: 7/25 FGs, 0/6 3Ps, 35 min, 13 games, 5-8 team record
Paul George: 2/8 FGs, 2/7 3Ps, 22 min, 10 games, 5-5 team record
Nicolas Batum: 4/8 FGs, 4/8 3Ps, 35 min, 15 games, 6-9 team record
Marcus Morris: 2/3 FGs, 2/2 3Ps, 26 min, 11 games, 5-6 team record
Lou Williams: 5/10 FGs, 3/5 3Ps, 18 min, 10 games, 3-7 team record
Serge Ibaka: 1/5 FGs, 0/2 3Ps, 17 min, 11 games, 4-7 team record

Kawhi Leonard is shooting 28/0/87 on a 35-minute sample size in 13 clutch games this season, and it's been consistent enough to be alarming. The Clippers need to figure out a different way to integrate their clutch offense because clearly just throwing the ball to Kawhi Leonard hasn't been working. The team has seen their best success in wins against the Utah Jazz or Miami Heat when they find a wide-open Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, or Lou Williams for a corner three - the clutch numbers prove it too. 

The game against the Milwaukee Bucks was the exact opposite of how the Clippers need to operate in the clutch, and exactly how they lost against the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George took every single shot in the final four minutes of the game and missed all eight of them. They attempted five three-pointers, two stepbacks, one fade away, one layup, and attempted zero free throws. The Clippers were the team that was up four points but attempted poor shots that a desperate team playing from behind would do. It's a recipe that didn't work in the playoffs last season, hasn't worked in games this year, and needs to be avoided moving forward.

Ball movement is what's been working for the LA Clippers, and can't be forgotten in the final five minutes of the game anymore. If not that, then this team needs to adapt, generate easy free throws in the paint, and be more aggressive. Whatever they're doing right now, clearly isn't working in the clutch.