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It Doesn’t Matter Who Starts, Only Who Finishes

Published: January 13, 2011

After Marco Belinelli tweaked his ankle in last night’s win against he Orlando Magic (status still uncertain for Friday), 32,476 Hornets fans all had the same idea. “Now Marcus can start!”, everyone thought. Now I’m not saying that he shouldn’t start, or that it’s unfair if he doesn’t, or even that he deserves to start, but let’s make one thing clear- It doesn’t matter. Not one bit.

Who cares who plays the first six minutes of the first half? I can’t think of less important minutes in the entire game. What’s the use in having your best players on the court for that period of time if it means that you can’t maximize the individual strengths of the players later on? A team’s best lineup is not the one that it trots out when the game starts, but that which is still on the floor when the final buzzer sounds, or more specifically, in clutch time.

As we’ve discussed before, clutch statistics are accumulated during the fourth quarter or overtime with less than five minutes left, with neither team ahead by more than five

The NBA is full of guys who don’t typically start, but are always found on the floor when it matters most. Jason Terry (9 starts, 100% of clutch minutes), Jamal Crawford (0 starts, 77% of clutch minutes), Ben Gordon (13 starts, 55% of clutch minutes) are the first to come to my mind. Every year there are a dozen guys who don’t start games, but still finish them.

Most teams have six or seven guys that they rotate at the end of games depending on the situation and specific match ups. Right now for the Hornets those guys are Chris Paul (100% of clutch minutes), David West (95%), Trevor Ariza (82%), Emeka Okafor (78%), Marco Belinelli (74%), and Willie Green (33%). Jason Smith (11%), Jarret Jack (10%) and Marcus Thornton (5%) aren’t quite what I would call clutch time regulars quite yet, but we’ve seen all of them thrown in there at the end when Monty calls their number.

Buckets has shown that given the opportunity and a green light, he can be a key player on this team. It’s up to him to become more consistent, because if he does, the opportunities to contribute when it matter more will surely increase. So when we are looking at how much play Monty gives Marcus, or their coach-player relationship in general, remember that it doesn’t matter at all if Marcus starts games. It matters if he finishes them.


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