Any Lakers fan that has watched the team play this season can tell you that the team has been dire in clutch situations. An offense that often bogs down without any creativity is paired with a defense that, particularly since Anthony Davis’ injury, can’t get stops has led to a team that is the worst in the league in clutch situations.
The NBA describes clutch situations as games separated by five points or fewer in the final five minutes. The Lakers have played in 14 of those games for a total of 51 minutes, both of which rank as the third-fewest in the league. But they’ve won just five of those games — tied for last — and have a tragically bad net rating of -33.5.
Not shockingly, that figure ranks last in the league and, as our friend Donny McHenry noted, would be one of the worst ever.
The Lakers have a -33.5 net rating in the “clutch”. If the season ended today, that’d be the worst “clutch” net rating since the 76ers in the 2015-16 season (-37.1)— Donny McHenry (@donny_mchenry) December 27, 2022
That team went 10-72
That Sixers team was peak “Trust The Process” days and the only team in shouting distance of the Lakers this season is the Pistons at -28.4, a team racing for Victor Wembanyama.
In fairness, a bad clutch rating is not an indicator of good or bad teams outright. The Bucks, for example, rank 28th in net rating and the Suns rank 22nd with each having negative net ratings. The idea is, obviously, if you’re blowing teams out or not in those situations often, your net rating is based on a small sample size.
And that logic does apply in some senses to the Lakers, at least the small sample size aspect. But this is where the eye test and analytics crossover and, again, anyone who has watched the Lakers late in games knows it’s not a matter of them simply missing open looks. They’re outright not creating those.
Their true shooting percentage of 46.8% is second-worst in the league. Their turnover percentage is an improbably low 4.8%. They’ve attempted 92 shots in clutch situations, one-third of them are 3-pointers, and are shooting 39.1% from the field and 28.1% from range. They’ve had just 18 assists in those 51 clutch minutes.
The stats paint the picture of a team that largely resorts to iso ball late in games and stinks really bad at doing that, hoisting up bad shots and often 3-pointers as the end result. Narrow the parameters to the final two minutes of games instead of the final five and the Lakers are a putrid 3-18 from the 3-point line with that, again, accounting for over one-third of their field goal attempts.
Zoom in on the Lakers’ individual clutch ratings and it gets UGLY. The best player for the Lakers based on net rating has been Patrick Beverley, who is sporting an ice cold rating of -25.2. Austin Reaves (-26.5) and Anthony Davis (-29.5) rank second and third while LeBron James (-32.7) ranks fifth.
LeBron is shooting 15-33 overall in clutch situations this year, but 2-11 from beyond the arc which means if you take out his 3-pointers, he’s 13-22 late in games, which is great! Reaves is 5-6 on his own with the lone miss being one of his three 3-pointers attempted. AD is 6-12 inside the arc and 1-4 outside the arc, the former of those an acceptable figure.
But that is about it for the Lakers in terms of positive production. Russell Westbrook? He’s shooting 4-19 from the field and 1-5 from the line. You can’t even take away the 3-pointers and get a decent shooting percentage there. He has as many fouls as field goals and only has two assists in clutch situations. He has a team-worst plus-minus of -38.
Lonnie Walker is 1-7 from the field in the clutch. PatBev hasn’t made a shot. Dennis Schroder is 1-4. All guys expected to contribute on some level have all been non-factors.
Again, you can explain away some of this as small sample size, but by its nature, clutch situations are going to be small sample sizes. They are brief moments that happen sparingly throughout the season and carry significantly more weight to them. Last season, the Lakers played the most games with clutch situations and that was only 47. In most seasons, clutch games come in only about 40% of contests.
But the margins are so, so thin for the Lakers that being this bad is absolutely tanking them down the Western Conference standings. They’re not a good team and are actively shooting themselves in the foot to cause further issues.
Perhaps this number comes around ab it. Some good fortune could be due the team’s way, though it’s not something they can rely upon because of how small the sample sizes are. There is no regression/progression to the mean they can rely upon.
Instead, it’s a situation they have to take accountability for by not simply repeating all the mistakes that got them to this point like relying on LeBron and Russ to create things and be proactive in finding solutions.