San Antonio Spurs: DeMar DeRozan’s clutchness is among the NBA’s best

The San Antonio Spurs have been playing team-oriented basketball this season, but DeMar DeRozan is proving why he’s their designated closer.

The word of the season for the San Antonio Spurs has been unpredictable. No one could’ve predicted they’d sweep the L.A. teams just like they couldn’t have predicted a home loss to the skeleton crew of the Rockets. One steady rock for the team, however, has been the timely plays of DeMar DeRozan.

The Spurs have been DeRozan’s team for a few seasons now, and this year has proven to be no different. In crunch time situations, which is when the game’s point differential is five or fewer points in the last five minutes, DeMar is averaging 1.3 more attempts than anyone else on the team. DeRozan is currently averaging 1.4 made field goals on 3.1 attempts for 45.5 percent shooting.

Roundout out the top four in late-game clutch attempts are LaMarcus Aldridge (1.8), Patty Mills (1.7), Dejounte Murray (1.1). Of those, only Alridge is shooting a better percentage at 55.6, but he’s only taken nine shots overall.

By going 10-for-22 in the guts of games, DeRozan is currently sixth in the NBA in total points scored in such situations with 28. DeMar is also within four points of tying James Harden for third in the league, which is just above Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid at 31 and 30. DeRozan is also getting it done in the clutch from the free throw line, making all six of his attempts in an area that he struggled with last season.

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The Importance of DeRozan’s late-game heroics for the San Antonio Spurs

To see how vital DeMar DeRozan is to the Spurs, look no further than their loss to a shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this season. With DeRozan out for personal reasons, San Antonio surrendered a 9-point fourth-quarter lead to find themselves in a dogfight.

After LaMarcus Aldridge tied the game at 81 with 4:54 remaining (which officially begins crunch time), the Wolves ended the game on a 15-7 run. Without DeRozan to close the game, Aldridge and Patty Mills took 10 of San Antonio’s last 14 shots. The result was a 96-88 loss to a team playing without their star in Karl Anthony-Towns.

As the Spurs continue trying to separate themselves from the .500 mark, ideally, they’ll avoid crunch time situations by taking care of business earlier. When that time does come, though, it’s nice to have DeMar to be their go-to decision maker to put teams away.