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Top 5 guys I want to take final shot in these playoffs

Apr 25, 2012, 7:05 PM EDT

Roy Hibbert, Chris Paul AP

I’m not a fan of trying to describe who is clutch in the NBA and who isn’t. Because defining clutch is impossible — any measure we put on it will miss the mark. We all kind of subscribe to the Justice Potter Steward “I know it when I see it” definition and even then we can’t agree — some of the guys with the best clutch shooting reputation miss a lot of shots at the end of games.

But this is the playoffs — when the NBA’s best face off against one another. Invariably, the games will come down to a final shot, a final possession. And there are guys you trust taking that shot. There just are. We say we want teams to “just run a play” in that situation, but as Rockets general manager Daryl Morey described recently it’s not that simple — with 8 seconds left if the play doesn’t work you can’t reset, you need a guy who can improvise and create for himself.

So, in the final seconds of a tight playoff game — who do I want taking control of and taking the final shot on my last possession? Here are my top five.

5. Kevin Durant (Thunder). He is one of the game’s great scorers, but he settles too much in the clutch — he’s taken 10 3-pointers (making two) in the final 30 seconds of a game when the Thunder were ahead or behind by two points this season, but he’s gotten to the free-throw line just eight times. He can create his own shot and is one of the great scorers in the game, but the Thunder can get too isolation heavy and the result is he is 7-for-21 in those final 30 seconds of a close game. He needs to attack more.

4. Kobe Bryant (Lakers). He’s on top of most lists, he’s the peoples’ champion. And no doubt he has and can hit big shots. But he misses more than he makes these days — in the final 30 seconds of a game where the Lakers are up or down two points or less, Kobe is 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) this season. But that is a little misleading — he also has gotten to the free-throw line 13 times (knocking down 11), a valuable and underrated skill. Also, he has two advantages. One, he can create his own look and if you send the double-team he can find the open guy (sometimes). Second, he is so, so confident — you want that, although it can lead to bad shots he is sure will fall.

3. Paul Millsap/Al Jefferson (Jazz). OK, it’s cheating to choose two guys, but the Jazz’s front line is a combined 11-of-23 in the final 30 seconds of a game when the Jazz are ahead or behind by two points this season, plus they have gotten to the free-throw line six times and hit all of them. Here is the big kicker — they have six offensive boards this season in that same small time set. With the game on the line, they are the best front line in the NBA and that is something I want in my corner.

2. Derrick Rose (Bulls). You have to send the double-team at him and he may still just make you look bad because he is that quick. He is shooting 5-of-9 in the final 30 seconds of a game where the Bulls are up or down two points this season, and he can get to the line. He doesn’t have any assists, but in the playoffs I don’t think he’d fear a kick-out to Kyle Korver or a dump-off to Carlos Boozer, even if both of those options make Bulls fans groan.

1. Chris Paul (Clippers). There is just nobody I trust to make the right play more — it may be attack and shoot, it may be find the open man, it may be draw the contact. Paul is 7-of-15 shooting and has gotten to the free-throw line 14 times in the final 30 seconds of a game where the Clippers are up or down two points or less. You can’t leave Blake Griffin or D’Andre Jordan alone on the baseline or on the roll after the pick because you know the lob will come if you do, but Paul is crafty and can get his shot or draw you into the foul. And make it all look effortless.

One shot, I want the ball in CP3’s hands.

  1. credds65 - Apr 25, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    How ever wrote this article should retire right now! Derrick Rose, Paul Milsap/Al Jefferson over Melo and D-Wade? Do you recall D-Rose chokes at the free throw line at the end of games?

  2. gavin1978 - Apr 25, 2012 at 9:42 PM


  3. isujames - Apr 25, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    @lakerSUCKER DO yourself a favor and take kobes sack out your mouth because his d*** is blocking your vision and clouding your one dimensional way of thinking.Durant,Wade,Lbj and dare i say P Pierce are all better scorers than kobe, and i know his 80pt performance will be brought up next, all those players are capable of achieving that feat.What seperates those players from your idol/hero/______/????/, is SELFLISHNESS.

    • loungefly74 - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:03 PM

      you hate kobe and its simple as that. the Lakers could win the next 10 title with Kobe leading the way but you will somehow spin it that he had nothing to do with it. it’s natural for people like you to do that. your obtuse thinking had distorted your views and what is real (you are the one brain-washed).

      …and the same for you as well @Keyshawn22. i recognized that handle and remember schooling you several times. so ya still think the Lakers would have won 3 titles with just shaq alone and not with kobe? ya probably think the same with MJ and Pip…need i say more?

      yeah…when most players, GM’s, coaches say kobe was one of the best defenders the past 15 years, we just kick that under the rug and go by your sage opinion (ya probably don’t even watch laker games…and if you do why? you hate them…sheesh..SMH).

      game 7 of the 2010 playoffs? oh man…this arguement again? okay…one more time for your pea-sized brain…(and i love how you base careers off of particular games)…10 of his game high 23 came in the 4th and he had 15 rebounds (for a SG? c’mon man! damn!) but you conveniently leave that out of course…oh…where was paul pierce in that game? on the losing end…that’s where.

  4. isujames - Apr 25, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    oh yea,i agree with Keyshawn22

  5. isujames - Apr 25, 2012 at 9:59 PM

    @lakersucker you exhibit a classic case of a successfull (BRAINWASH) project.

  6. keyshawn22 - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    Well said isujames… Kobe is incredibly overrated. All he is does is chuck up shots and by sheer volume some go in. He doesnt play defense until the last 5 minutes but has the phantom reputation as a great defender. He is the 3rd best laker guard of all time (Magic/West) let alone being considered one of the 5-10 best nba players of all time thats just straight nonsense. Shaq was soley responsible for those 3 titles Kobe was just there. Paul Pierce, Wade and Dirk are all better clutch shooters and better alltime players. Derek Fisher and Ron Artest made the big shots in game 7 in the 2010 finals while kobe went 6-24.

  7. borderline1988 - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    I hate Pierce b/c he’s a diva and is the biggest flopper in the league. But I’d trust him to take the last shot. Dirk also. Those guys win this contest b/c they have done it before in the playoffs.

    Kobe – no chance. At the end of the day, he shoots a really low percentage in the clutch. I don’t care how many times his frontcourt has bailed him out and won him championships. Or the physical number of shots he’s made. If you give him the ball in the last few minutes of a game, the odds are that he’d miss more than other stars. Same with Durant – he’s actually terrible in the clutch – how could anybody choose him?

    How about Rudy Gay btw? He’s a bit of a wildcard but he always seems to hit big shots when he’s given the chance.

  8. david8726 - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    My list would be –

    1. Carmelo. Historically he is amazing at game winning jumpers percentage wise.
    2. Dirk. Can elevate over anyone to get a good shot off.
    3. CP3. Amazing end of game decision making.
    4. Wade. Equally comfortable driving all the way to the rim or pulling up.
    5. Kobe. Has to be on the list as he’s made so many big shots in his career. Loses points for being older.

    Honorable mention – Durant. Like Dirk, he’s so big and tall that he can get a good shot in any situation. He hasn’t actually made a ton of game winners in his young career yet, but I believe he has it in him.

    • dal24la - Apr 29, 2012 at 11:10 PM

      Your list is good, but I would have changed the order:
      1) CP3. Like you said amazing decision maker at end of game with ability to do whatever.
      2) Melo. Can score efficiently anyway he wants.
      3) Dirk. Same as melo but not as good of a driver imo and slower.
      4) Kobe. Older and worse then he used to be but still good with a great offensive moveset.
      5) Wade. I have Kobe over him because I think Kobe shoots better.
      6) KD- If he settled for less Js I wud have him higher.
      Honorable mention to Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, and D. Rose.

  9. richie2004 - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    How many points does kobe has to score to win scoring title

  10. drunkenjunk - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    Where is Dirk or Paul Pierce or Ray Ray? You didn’t think this through kurt.

  11. redstar504 - Apr 26, 2012 at 1:03 AM

    My Hornets won’t be in this playoffs obviously so the only dog I have in this hunt is what two lotto balls the Hornets get.

    That said your list is good I would have Kobe Bryant much higher. I like Rose getting the love too. Last but not least I totally agree with CP3 being the #1. I really miss him being here in NOLA. I can say watching him a lot in person the last several years there is no player in the game more deadly than him with all the chips on the table and a few ticks left on the clock. Paul is the consummate floor general out there. No player has the basketball IQ that he has. He sees the whole floor with the ability to breakdown any situation in a split second and find the path of least resistance to the basket. I have seen this come back to bite him when he hits an unsuspecting teammate with a wide open look in the closing seconds of a game so for Paul to be CP3 everybody on the floor has to be ready for anything. Paul is an amazing player even if I hate the Clips and that overrated Vince Carter version 2.0 I will be pulling for them to win just to see Paul get his due,

  12. thenoblefacehumper - Apr 26, 2012 at 1:09 AM

    What about the guy who literally has the best field goal percentage in these situations? Oh wait I forgot he’s on the Knicks, and you’re Kurt. My mistake.

  13. davidly - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:53 AM

    Nice catch with Milsap/Jefferson! Man, would I like to have your stats aggregator, Kurt.

    But I’m gonna put at number 5 that guy in Estonia. Hedging my bets, don’tcha know.

  14. crownmeofficial - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    Kobe, Melo, Dwade, Dirk, Pierce/Paul

  15. cnyphinfan - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    you have lost your credibility by not including these players that are the definition of clutch – Melo, Dirk and D-Wade.

    And what about LeB…..oh wait……my bad dawg……

  16. baned0n - Apr 26, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    Why would a kick out to Korver make me groan? Dude has been lighting it up.

    • gmsingh - Apr 26, 2012 at 8:38 AM

      Nothing about a kick out to Korver would make a Bulls fan groan–more likely they’d be saying “Give me the hot sauce!”

      Kurt’s mad because he couldn’t figure out a way to weasel a Heat player onto the list.

  17. kdbaker10 - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    How much of those Millsap/Jefferson #’s came in the Jazz/Mavs double OT game a week or so ago? Also, as a Mavs homer, seeing how he beat the Heat twice last finals with the game on the line, I think he’s gotta be on the list…no?

  18. turdfurgerson68 - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Paul Millsap/Al Jefferson over Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Carmelp Anthony, or Andre Igudola????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    What stuff you been smoking dude?

  19. davincizsp - Apr 26, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    5) Jason Terry
    4) D Wade
    3) P Pierce
    2) Dirk
    1) Kobe

  20. 16x8equal49ers - Apr 26, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    1. LeBron
    2. James
    3. Lebron
    4. James
    5. LBJ
    But na all the other names mentioned are great. Pierce, Dirk, Allen, Taj Gibson, Rose, Harden, Wade, Paul are all good.

    • sdm268 - Apr 27, 2012 at 1:59 PM

      What planet are you on? Do you have a fantasy crush on LeBron or do you actually watch NBA games?

      Lebron has won nothing yet … except for the “GREATEST BASKETBALL IDIOT AWARD”.

  21. giselleisasucubus - Apr 26, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    bad ankle or not, if Ray Allen is on the floor, he takes the last shot. He belongs on this list. He is an assassin from outside, even in his older years.

  22. GT - Apr 26, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    No Paul Pierce = No Credibility

  23. connect2bh - Apr 26, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    Ya I can’t leave out Pierce and Dirk in this one. Not loving Millsap and Jefferson, especially over Kobe..but I do like Paul at 1

  24. sdm268 - Apr 27, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    You people don’t deserve to watch basketball. What a shame. Kurt ….. seriously??? Chris Paul? Rose? And who the heck is Paul Milsap? Country singer?
    Just because Kobe is older, he LOSES points …. is your best validation??
    Anyone that really knows basketball would have KOBE take that shot everyday of the week and then some, even if he was 56 years old!

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