Some NBA teams know how to turn it on in the fourth quarter.
We're not talking about clutch factions that bring it in the last five minutes of a tightly contested game, either. With the game on the line, coaches and fans want their teams to play at a high level for all 12 minutes to close out the game.
One would assume that with so much riding on those final 12 minutes of action, most franchises would be at their best. Believe it or not, per NBA.com (subscription required) 17 of the Association's 30 teams are being outscored in the final quarter by their opponents.
Five of those teams—the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies and Milwaukee Bucks—are surefire playoff teams.
There are, however, a handful of outfits that go against the grain and reject this startlingly disturbing trend of struggling when it matters most.
Which teams are those, and who must the rest of the league fear most in the fourth?
All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, NBA.com and TeamRankings.com unless otherwise noted.
Fourth Quarter Points Scored: 25.7 (third)
Fourth Quarter Points Allowed: 24.4 (17th)
Fourth Quarter Plus/Minus: +1.3 (sixth)
The way the Denver Nuggets are playing, it's no surprise to see the amongst the most dangerous teams in the fourth quarter.
Admittedly, their defense continues to struggle down the stretch, but their offensive output is truly amazing. Despite allowing a wealth of points, Denver manages score enough to post the sixth-highest point differential in the league. How's that for potent?
The Nuggets also rank third at fourth-quarter shooting percentage at 47.8 percent.
I'm particularly impressed with the their fourth-quarter production because they rank second in possessions used per 48 minutes. You might assume they would be gassed during the final 12 minutes of regulation, but not these Nuggets.
It's no wonder this team has climbed their way to third place in the Western Conference.
Denver is already one of the most dangerous teams at home and can now add "fourth-quarter connoisseur" to its resume as well.
Fourth Quarter Points Scored: 24.3 (13th)
Fourth Quarter Points Allowed: 22.2 (fourth)
Fourth Quarter Plus/Minus: +2.0 (tied-third)
Chris Paul and company aren't the most voluminous of fourth-quarter scorers, but their ability to stifle their opponents at the other end of the floor bolsters their standing considerably.
Outscoring foes by an average of two points per fourth quarter might not seem like much, and it's really not, but the highest point differential in the league for the final period is a plus-2.5.
We also have to credit the edge they carry in efficiency. They're shooting 45.4 percent (fifth) from the floor while holding their opponents to 40.7 percent shooting.
It also doesn't hurt that they have the best point guard in the game whispering in everyone's ear throughout the final 12 minutes.
Limiting DeAndre Jordan's minutes, and the liability he poses on offense, is key as well.
Fourth Quarter Points Scored: 26.3 (first)
Fourth Quarter Points Allowed: 24.3 (16th)
Fourth Quarter Plus/Minus: +2.0 (tied-third)
Despite the fact that most of the San Antonio Spurs' fourth quarters are played past most their players' bed times, Gregg Popovich's contingent knows how to finish a game.
Defense remains an issue in stretches, but the Spurs put more fourth-quarter points on the board than any other team in the NBA. They're also shooting a league-best 48.9 percent from the field in the fourth.
Where does their 39.6 percent three-point clip rank? You guessed it—atop the Association once again.
Tony Parker's fourth-quarter heroics can't be overlooked. He's tied for ninth in the league (with Dwyane Wade) with 5.7 points scored per fourth quarter.
Not bad for a team that's supposedly old and boring.
Fourth Quarter Points Scored: 24.6 (10th)
Fourth Quarter Points Allowed: 22.2 (third)
Fourth Quarter Plus/Minus: +2.4 (second)
The New York Knicks aren't a team you would expect to be dominant in the fourth quarter.
Sure, they're brimming with veterans who know how to perform under pressure, but they're also old. And I mean historically old. Shouldn't they be tired 36 minutes into the game, especially knowing how inconsistently Mike Woodson manages minutes?
Apparently not. New York is one of only two teams to be in the top 10 of fourth-quarter points scored and allowed.
Carmelo Anthony and crew are also ranked seventh in field-goal percentage (45.1) and 10th in three-point percentage (35.4), making them one of only five squads to be hitting such marks simultaneously.
Speaking of Melo, he ranks fourth in the NBA with 6.9 points scored per fourth quarter. The tumultuous J.R. Smith ranks 11th with 5.5, leaving the Knicks as one of just three teams to have two top 15 fourth-quarter scorers.
Watch out for the boys in orange and blue in the fourth. They come ready to play—stiff joints and all.
Fourth Quarter Points Scored: 25.2 (sixth)
Fourth Quarter Points Allowed: 22.7 (sixth)
Fourth Quarter Plus/Minus: +2.5 (first)
The Miami Heat have seen a number of games nearly fall out of reach in the fourth quarter, but they've managed to prevail time and time again, to the tune of the best record in the NBA.
Miami ranks second in field-goal percentage (48.8) and three-point percentage (39.4), and they're first in opponents' field-goal conversion rate (40.6).
LeBron James, "Mr. Clutch" himself, ranks eighth in points scored per fourth quarter with six and seventh in assists with 1.8. He's the only player in the league to finish in the top 10 of both points and assists in the fourth.
The reigning champs are also the only NBA team to have two top 10 fourth-quarter scorers. Dwyane Wade's 5.7 points in the final 12 minutes is 10th amongst all players.
Easily the most dangerous team in the league at the moment, it should come as no surprise that the Heat are the most complete of fourth-quarter aggregates.
Their penchant for late-game heroics or stepping on the throat of their opponents cannot be matched, let alone exceeded.
They're simply a force that opposing teams dread facing in the fourth. Or at all, for that matter.