The Boston Celtics know how to execute down the stretch.
First, a Kevin Garnett 15-foot jumper put the Celtics up 81-80 with 2:54 remaining in Game 5. Then, Mickael Pietrus drained a 3-pointer with 2:11 left to put the Celtics back ahead after a Mario Chalmers 3-pointer.
It was Pietrus’ first field goal this postseason in the final five minutes of a five-point game.
Finally, it was perhaps the biggest shot for the Celtics this postseason. Clinging to an 87-86 lead, Paul Pierce hit a contested 3-pointer with LeBron James defending to extend the Celtics' lead to four with 52 seconds remaining.
That proved to be the difference in the Celtics’ Game 5 victory in Miami.
In the final five minutes of the past two games, when the score is within five points, the Celtics are 10-21 from the field, including 2-of-6 on 3-point attempts.
The Heat, meanwhile, are 7-24 on field goal attempts in those same situations (called “clutch” or “crunch time”) over the past two games, including 2-of-11 from beyond the arc.
It wasn’t necessarily that the Heat couldn’t execute offensively down the stretch -- Chalmers hit a clutch go-ahead 3-pointer followed by a game-tying Dwyane Wade layup in the final three minutes. But the Heat couldn’t stop the Celtics from executing offensively down the stretch, and they weren’t able to in Game 4 either.
Why have the Celtics been so successful in crunch time the past two games? Well, they’ve had plenty of experience this postseason (not to mention the previous four postseasons as well).
In the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime this postseason, when the score is within five points, the Celtics are shooting 48-for-96 as a team, including 11-of-24 on 3-point attempts.
To put that in perspective, the Heat have the next-most such attempts this postseason with 63, and they’ve made just 23 of them (36.5 percent). The Heat are just 4-of-19 on crunch-time 3-point attempts.
The San Antonio Spurs, who are still in the playoffs as well, have attempted just 17 crunch-time shots (made 11). That tells a lot about the different paths the Celtics and Spurs have had to get to this point, when comparing 17 attempts to 96.
No other team has made even half the number of clutch shots the Celtics have made this postseason.
The Celtics’ clutch factor can largely be attributed this postseason to Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Pierce is 12-for-19 (63.2 percent) in the final five minutes of five-point games this postseason, the highest field goal percentage of any player who has attempted at least 10 clutch shots.
No player has made more clutch shots this postseason than Rondo, who is 16-for-31. On those same shot attempts, LeBron is just 6-for-19 (31.6 percent) and Wade is 8-for-20 (40 percent).
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com. This story first appeared in the True Hoop blog.