Jenni Carlson

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Thunder: Who’s more clutch, KD or Russ?

by Jenni Carlson Published: April 27, 2012
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) and Russell Westbrook (0)
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) and Russell Westbrook (0)

USA Today had a fascinating piece as its “Cover Story” today, and the Thunder was front and center.

If you’ve read the national newspaper, you know that the “Cover Story” is the meaty feature that appears on every section front. The sports page today focused on clutch players in the NBA Playoffs. The piece, written by Jeff Zillgitt, delves into all the different aspects that make a player clutch.

This is a topic that we’ve written about before as it relates to Kevin Durant. He’s become a much better player in the clutch — which is defined as the last five minutes or less of a game with a score margin within five points — and it doesn’t take a lot of statistics for folks in these parts to know that.

Thunder fans have seen it with their own eyes this past couple years.

But Zillgitt sites some fascinating numbers about KD and his tag-team partner Russell Westbrook. This season, the Thunder has had 30 games that came down to clutch situations. Durant and Westbrook both averaged 4.9 minutes in the last 5 minutes of those games. Not a shock since both of those guys are going to be on the floor at the end of close games.

But here’s what’s interesting about their clutch-time performances.

“Durant averaged 4.8 points to Westbrook’s 4.1,” Zillgitt wrote. “Yet Durant took 32 more shots and had a lower shooting percentage (39.3%) than Westbrook (43.5%).”

Now, this isn’t to say that either player is bad in the clutch. The truth is that statistically, these two guys are the top two in terms of points scored in the clutch in the NBA this season.

But isn’t it interesting that the perception is out there that Durant is way more clutch that Westbrook. I mean, if you asked some pundits, they’d tell you that Durant should take each and every shot in the clutch, even though the numbers tell us that he is shooting a worse percentage than Westbrook while taking more shots.

Who gets the big shots in a close game has never mattered to me. What matters is whether they get a good shot.

If Durant has a good shot, take it. If it’s Westbrook, the same philosophy applies. Heck, as long as it’s a good shot, it doesn’t matter if it’s Serge Ibaka or James Harden or anyone else in Thunder blue from where I’m sitting.

But still, in light of OKC’s recent late-game woes, this is an interesting question, Thunder fans — who do you think is more clutch? Is it KD? Is it Westbrook?

Who do you want to have the ball in their hands when the game is on the line?

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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