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Synergy Sports defines a clutch situation as the last five minutes of regulation or over-time when the lead is five points or fewer. The NBA Finals’ two biggest stars are the Heat’s LeBron James and the Thunder’s Kevin Durant, who will be looked at to step up for their team in these clutch situations throughout the remainder of the series. The subject of being a closer in the NBA is the cover story for the June 25, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
Over the last few years, LeBron James has been characterized as a player who is not clutch or can’t close a game out when needed. During the finals, he is attempting to put that theory to rest. James has averaged 30.3 points and the Heat currently has 2—1 series lead behind terrific late-game performances from James in Game 2 and 3. He understands the closer phenomenon but laments it as well. James says, “That’s a problem with our league sometimes. You evaluate the last minute of a game, or the last 30 seconds, and forget this is a complete 48-minute game.”
Senior writer Lee Jenkins spoke with a few past “closers”, including Reggie Miller and Sam Jones, about the mentality that this type of player needs to have. Miller said, “It’s supposed to be quietest in the eye of the tornado. That’s how it was for me. The key is that you’re shocked when a closer misses.”
Durant owns a key ingredient in being a closer—his resiliency. No matter what happens at the end of a game, whether the Thunder has won or lost on a last-second shot by Durant, he’ll be back out there practicing first thing the next morning (page 46).