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With the game on the line, who is the player who steps up in the clutch and performs at a high level. We know Lebron James does, and he has done it often. Isaiah Thomas did it last season for the Celtics big-time in performances that will be long-remembered. How does Kyrie Irving stack up to these two stars in the final five minutes of a game and no team leading by more than five points, the NBA's definition of Clutch Time.


The factors I looked at were win%, points, FG%, three-point%, FT%, rebounds, steals, blocks and +/-. I used Kyrie's and Lebron's numbers from this season and Isaiah's from last year. Lebron took win%, points and rebounds. Kyrie won on FG% and tied for first with James on assists, blocks and +/-. Isaiah took three-point%, free-throw% and tied with Kyrie on steals. So counting the ties, James took six categories to five for Irving and three for Thomas.

It can be argued that the only two factors that really matter in Clutch Time (or any time) are the won/loss record and the +/-. Here, Kyrie and Lebron are very close with Isaiah not far behind. Irving and James are tied on +/- with a 2.4 score, and James leads Kyrie 73.3 to 71.4 on win%.

So Kyrie is totally filling the role of closer that Isaiah possessed last year. And because of Irving's size and defense, I feel he is better suited for the job. My thinking is that Kyrie instills that Opponent Fear Factor in his defenders, particularly at the end of close games.

Okay, as a finale, here is a good bar bet for our readers. In the final 30 seconds or one minute at the end of a close game, which Celtic leads the League in +/-? The answer is Jaylen Brown, and second, third and fourth places go to Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum, respectively. Put reliable shooters who are also great defenders out there to close games, and that is the result.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Tom Lane 12/08/2017 02:01:00 PM Edit
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