In the past, Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George has been criticized for his lack of clutch shots. However, that is starting to change.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the wing was 0-of-14 on go-ahead shots during the final 10 seconds of games throughout his first eight seasons in the NBA.
However, this year, George has made two game-winning shots — one against the Brooklyn Nets in December and another against the Philadelphia 76ers in January. Only Jimmy Butler has more game-winners (3) than George this season.
To put this into perspective, we looked at his field goal percentage on his attempts to tie the game or take the lead with 30 seconds or less in regulation or overtime during both the regular season and the playoffs.
He was just 6-of-45 (13.3 percent) on these shot opportunities before this season, per Basketball-Reference. George had connected on only 3-of-33 (9.1 percent) of these looks in regular-season chances prior to 2016.
Due to these struggles, many fans found it funny that Gatorade cast him in the above commercial, which features George calling “ball game” as he hits a game-winning shot. It was an interesting advertising choice considering his actual production in those moments.
After George hit the game-winner against Philadelphia last month, he provided a level-headed answer about his mindset in those situations (via OKC Thunder Wire):
“I don’t worry about that. I’m going to shoot it with confidence. If I make it, we win. If I miss it, we lose it. That’s what it comes down to and I knew that going into that shot. I just know that I have spent a lot of time shooting the ball in my life. … I don’t let it linger. I don’t hang my head.”
The NBA tracks each player’s “clutch minutes,” which are when the game is within five points during the final minutes of regulation or overtime.
George has scored 84 points during clutch minutes, which ranks No. 7 overall in the NBA this season. The only players who have scored more thus far are James Harden, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Blake Griffin and Mike Conley.
For comparison, he ranked No. 24 overall during his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In his final season with the Indiana Pacers, he was No. 12 overall. And in the season before that, only two players (Reggie Jackson and Kevin Durant) scored more “clutch” points than he did.
So while George did struggle with go-ahead shots specifically earlier in his career, he has typically performed well down the stretch in close games.
Now, with the game-winners starting to fall, the All-Star starter can continue to dispel this narrative that he isn’t solid in clutch moments.