PHOENIX SUNS

Suns finished season as a top-5 clutch team in NBA history

Apr 13, 2022, 11:20 AM | Updated: 11:40 am

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns makes a basket late in the fourth quarter against Davion Mitche...

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns makes a basket late in the fourth quarter against Davion Mitchell #15 of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on March 20, 2022 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

As the Phoenix Suns reached the NBA All-Star break in mid-February, they were on pace to close as the best clutch team in NBA history.

Despite Phoenix losing point guard Chris Paul’s clutch play for 15 games out of the All-Star break due to a thumb injury and despite the team resting starters down the stretch after securing the No. 1 seed, the Suns’ clutch stats at the end of the regular season remain historic.

The Suns finished with a 33-9 record in games that included clutch time, which is fourth-best by winning percentage (.786). Their net rating in the clutch for 2021-22 was 33.4, third-best all-time.

There is a correlation between the best clutch teams in history and their playoff success.

NBA.com’s history of clutchness goes back to 1996-97, and it defines clutch time as a game within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Phoenix’s 2-4 finish to the season put a dent in the team’s clutch winning percentage. The team would have gone 32-6 in clutch games for a .842 mark that would have tied for second all-time, but the last six games saw four clutch-time outings that amounted to a 1-3 record.

For the year, the Suns played in 130 clutch minutes and outscored opponents by 107 points. The next-best teams, the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, closed with a +56 in 141 and 160 clutch minutes, respectively.

Paul and Devin Booker led the way for the Suns in crunch time.

Of players who averaged at least one clutch field-goal attempt per game that had clutch time and also played at least 10 games with clutch minutes, they were top-four in shooting percentage, with Booker hitting 56.9% of his attempts and Paul at 56.8%.

Paul led the league with 34 clutch-time assists — and posted just six turnovers.

Of players who took at least 25 clutch-time shots all year, it was actually Suns wing Mikal Bridges who led the team in percentage at 65.6%. That was second-best in the NBA (behind center Jonas Valanciunas) and ahead of Booker and Paul in eighth and ninth place.

As for the historical perspective, here’s a peek at the other top clutch teams in recorded history and how they fared in the playoffs.

NBA’s best clutch teams by record

1. 2015-16 Golden State Warriors: 30-4 record in clutch

(.882) — Won 73 games to set an NBA regular-season record before falling in seven games to the Cavs in the NBA Finals

2. 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks: 32-6

(.842) — Those Mavericks finished ahead of the Suns at the top of the West but fell in six games to the “We believe” Warriors in a first-round defeat. It was the first time a No. 8 seed beat a No. 1 seed under the current seven-game first-round playoff format.

3. 2012-13 Miami Heat: 32-8

(.800) — Won NBA Finals in seven games over San Antonio Spurs

4. 2021-22 Suns: 33-9

(.786)

5. 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers: 28-8

(.778) — Won NBA Finals in six games over Indiana Pacers

NBA’s best clutch teams by net rating

1. 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers (23-9 record in clutch)

34.2 net rating — Fell in the conference finals against the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic, who themselves lost to the Lakers in the Finals.

2. 2015-16 Warriors (30-4)

34.1 net rating — Won 73 games to set an NBA regular-season record before falling in seven games to the Cavs in the NBA Finals

3. 2021-22 Suns (33-9)

33.4 net rating

4. 2012-13 Heat (32-8)

28.9 net rating — Won NBA Finals in seven games over Spurs

5. 2017-18 Houston Rockets (25-10)

27.2 net rating — Chris Paul and James Harden fell in a seven-game Western Conference Finals series against the Warriors before Golden State cruised to an NBA Finals sweep of the Cavaliers.

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