Spurs' Shooting in Clutch Time is Even Worse Than it Appears

Zach LaVine, Derrick White
Zach LaVine, Derrick White / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages

Tuesday's demoralizing loss to the Golden State Warriors left a bad taste in the mouths of the San Antonio Spurs and their fans. Despite having the deck heavily stacked in their favor due to Steve Kerr benching five of his six leading scorers, they found a way to blow the game in clutch time.

Unfortunately, a deeper dive into the numbers shows that's been a recurring theme in the Alamo City. Of course, it's hard to expect anything different from a roster consisting of role players still trying to find their stride and gel around a budding star.

I can't fault this young team for struggling to close out games given they don't have a go-to superstar to work through to find buckets and make plays. Still, a look at how the Silver and Black have faltered particularly from the 3-point line in clutch situations is jaw-dropping.

The Ugly Truth Behind the Spurs' Late-Game Shooting

As of Friday, the Spurs have been involved in 22 games that came down to a clutch situation, meaning the difference in score was within five points either way with 5 minutes remaining. Tuesday's loss dropped them to 7-15 in such situations and came despite Dejounte Murray hitting two go-ahead field goals in the last couple of minutes.

In looking at the statistics of every Spur in these situations, the thing that sticks out the most is easily 3-point shooting. Here's how each member of the team has fared from deep with the game hanging in the balance.

  • Devin Vassell: 0-of-11 (0%)
  • Dejounte Murray: 0-of-6 (0%)
  • Derrick White: 1-of-9 (11.1%)
  • Keldon Johnson: 2-of-10 (20%)
  • Lonnie Walker: 1-of-5 (20%)
  • Doug McDermott: 1-of-4 (25%)
  • Joshua Primo: 2-of-3 (66.7%)

Added up, the Spurs are shooting an abysmal 7-for-48 for just 14.6% from beyond the arc in close late-game situations. Even if this was a roster full of rookies, that number is just not acceptable.

Most striking is the 0-for-11 mark Devin Vassell currently holds. Granted, some of his looks have come late in the shot clock off of broken plays, but as a 35.4% shooter from the outside, he really needs to see one fall. I fully expect he will.

Derrick White has his own issues to work through beyond missing threes in the clutch -- mainly making threes in general. He's making just 31.3% of his shots from long range and just 24.2% of the ones he takes when he's open.

On the flipside, there are some encouraging trends to monitor. Although Murray hasn't sunk a three in the guts of the game, he's playing fairly well with the game on the line, making 21 of his 48 attempts for 43.8%. That has him in the range of guys like Zach LaVine and Jayson Tatum.

While he's only received 13 clutch time minutes, Joshua Primo has made three of his three attempts from beyond the arc in those situations and is the only one shooting better than 25%. As Air Alamo writer Jonah Kubicek recently argued, maybe it's time Primo commands the ball more, but he needs to be given opportunities on the court to do so as well.

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The good news for the Spurs is it probably can't get much worse than it is right now in this department. Vassell is way too good a shooter to keep missing at this rate, as is Keldon Johnson. But until they start getting some of these to go down, we're likely to see many more losses this year happen in frustratingly similar ways.

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