Remember when the Miami Heat used to be bad at that whole scoring in late-game situations aspect part of the game?
Me, neither. Because now the Heat are the league's top team in those situations, equipped with a certain MVP who is plus-127 in clutch situations, defined by 82games.com as "4th quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left, neither team ahead by five or more points".
Over the course of this historic season, which has the Heat four wins away from setting the franchise mark for wins in a season, the Heat have put out some of the top lineups in the NBA, including a specific clutch lineup that has Miami dominating on both sides of the floor.
This lineup, featuring Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh, has played over 128 minutes together and is scoring 1.17 points per possession on offense, while yielding only 0.97 PPP on defense, according to 82games.com.
Out of the 20 top Heat lineups, it is the third most efficient in terms of points per possession given up on defense. The only lineups that top that are a defensive-minded lineup that features Chalmers, Wade, Battier, James, and Udonis Haslem, as well as one that is only giving up 0.89 PPP, but has only played 52 minutes together.
It doesn't have everything to do with the lineup. The defense ramps up in those final minutes. They're in a defensive system that requires effort to work, since it's a system that relies heavily on quick rotations and double-teams.
If there isn't effort being put out by each player on the floor, a rotation is missed and the defense collapses. However, when the Heat are putting heavy pressure on the ball-handler and keeping the offense beyond the perimeter, Miami is the best team in the league by miles.
And that's why the Heat are 58-16 and have a good shot at being the team with home-court through the playoffs.
Through this five-man core, Miami has established themselves as one of the toughest teams to stop on offense and one of the most stingy to score on defense.
If you've watched any Miami Heat basketball in the past decade, you don't need too much of a background regarding Dwyane Wade's ability to come through in tight spots.
Wade has hit a myriad of game-winners and big-time shots over his career, but has seen those highlights dwindle with so much help surrounding him. Now that he has LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Shane Battier, and Ray Allen to look to, there's always room for a better shot than what Wade can offer in the form of jumpers.
Nevertheless, the Heat are still an incredible team when Wade is on the floor in clutch situations. Miami is a plus-38.5 compared to their opponent in the final five minutes of close games, and Wade is a plus-118, according to 82games.com.
He's still getting to the line, too. Although he's only shooting 61 percent from the line, he's getting there at a rate of 10.8 free throw attempts per 48 minutes, according to 82games.com.
In case you forgot, Wade hasn't fallen off, he just has so much talent surrounding him that 30 points per on 50 percent shooting isn't a necessity to become a middle-of-the-pack team.
Although 82games.com has Wade with a PER lower than his opponents when playing at point guard, Dwyane is going to share the position with LeBron James and Ray Allen. The Heat play positionless basketball and Wade playing point guard means as much as Shane Battier playing power forward.
In the lineup that features Wade as the Heat's point guard, which also features the rest of the players you will soon be introduced to, the Heat are scoring 1.17 points per possession on offense and only giving up .95 PPP on defense, according to 82games.com
It's the third most used lineup by Miami and the best one that features the Heat's two best three-point threats on the floor.
The Heat create space better than any other team and it works not just because of the shooters, but because of guys like Wade and LeBron James who drive and keep the defense on their heels.
What's a clutch lineup without Ray Allen?
Allen is plus-93 in clutch situations and the lineups he is a part of are outscoring their opponent by nearly 31, according to 82games.com. The fourth quarter has become Allen's time to shine, as he has taken 247 field-goal attempts in fourth quarters and overtimes combined.
He's only taken a combined 333 shots in the first three quarters, not taking more than 100 in either the first or third quarter where the majority of the minutes are spent waiting to come off the bench.
Nobody is going to complain about Allen taking that many shots in the fourth quarter, however. He's a 43 percent shooter from beyond the arc and his field-goal efficiency clocks in at 56 percent in the final frame.
The fourth quarter is the reason why Allen was heavily pursued by the Miami Heat in last year's offseason.
The Heat are now spacing the floor with two extremely dangerous three-point shooters, Shane Battier being the other, and it's causing defenses to either collapse on drives or to risk allowing one-on-one defense against some of the league's top isolation players.
In clutch situations, Allen's field-goal efficiency skyrockets to a bewildering 64 percent.
His ability to create plays has also created a factor in those moments, including the Heat's recent win over San Antonio where Allen attracted the defense with the threat of a shot only to pass it off to Bosh, who was open at the top of the key for the go-ahead three.
It is unlikely Ray is handling the ball in those situations. It will either be LeBron James or Dwyane Wade bringing the ball up and facilitating, before Allen has that opportunity.
Shane Battier won't fill up any stat columns, outside of anything involving the three-point line, but he is going to be the guy who provides that extra boost to give your team an advantage in the end.
Remember the Heat's thrilling 105-103 victory over the Boston Celtics? Of course everyone is going to remember LeBron James' stepback go-ahead jumper in the final seconds, but who is going to bring up Battier's incredible defensive stand against Jeff Green, who had gone off for 43 points that day?
Referees felt so horribly for Green that they gave him back the ball, despite it going off him, just so he could have another crack at it.
Battier is giving up 0.89 points per possession, according to SynergySports. Although that has Battier ranked 243rd, he is also being gifted the assignment of defending the opposition's top wing player whenever LeBron James isn't playing, as we saw in the Heat's recent loss to the New York Knicks.
However, he does rank 78th in defending post-ups, according to SynergySports. As much as he helps on the offensive end against bigger teams when being paired up against a true power forward, he has fared well when defending those power forwards.
He's also making up for any size he gives up on the offensive end. Battier ranks 12th among all NBA players in spot-ups, scoring 1.28 PPP, according to SynergySports.
The only downside is the rebounding numbers. Opposing power forwards are averaging 11.5 rebounds per 48 minutes when Battier is at the four, according to 82games.com, and Shane is a minus-6.6 when compared.
But he was the starting power forward of an NBA champion, so the Heat aren't exactly about to start questioning whether or not Battier is capable at playing the four. Shane's minutes at power forward have been limited this season, with the team choosing Udonis Haslem to start at the four for the long haul.
In clutch situations, the lineups Battier has been featured in have been defensive juggernauts. While the Heat's offense is scoring 122.3 points per 100 possessions, the defense is giving up on 70.5.
That's a net difference of nearly 52.
Having the defensive services, as well as the career-high 43 percent shooting from deep, of Battier have played key roles in Miami's past two years of sustained and consistent success on both ends of the floor.
Although the lineup with Mario Chalmers, and not Shane Battier, has better numbers, Battier's role as a spot-up shooter gives him the edge, since clutch situations will usually involve Shane taking a wide-open three-pointer.
In preparation for the postseason, as well as to avoid the long-haul of the regular season, the Miami Heat have attempted to keep LeBron James at the power forward position under wraps.
After Chris Bosh went down with an abdominal injury in Game 1 of the Heat's semifinals series against the Indiana Pacers, James was featured as Miami's power forward for large portions of the following two series. He wound up having the best rebounding numbers of the season, including a 19-rebound effort against Indiana in a Game 4 victory.
In the time LeBron has been featured at power forward this year, he has a staggering advantage over his assignment. According to 82games.com, LeBron has a PER of 34.8 on offense and is yielding a PER of 17.6 to his opponent when he's playing at power forward.
Although his field-goal efficiency drops, his free throw attempts swell from 6.1 to 10.6 per 48 minutes. His point totals and rebounding totals also jump, with the only minor drop coming from James' playmaking ability where his assists per 48 drop from 9.4 to 8.9
When it comes to playing defense, it will be up to the Heat opponent to pick their poison. Do they stick a slower power forward on James or do they risk having him defend Shane Battier on the perimeter?
It's questions like those that led to the Heat needing only five games to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder, who could not figure out what to do with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.
Do I need to get into LeBron James' clutch statistics? As much as his detractors will claim, the numbers weigh strongly in LeBron's favor when determining just how efficient he is in late-game situations.
LeBron's clutch statistics, which are tallied in the final five minutes of fourth quarter or overtime in a game where the margin is five or less, has him at a plus-127, according to 82games.com
Even more staggering of a stat is how efficient his team is when he's in the game. When LeBron is in the lineup in those situations, the Heat are garnering 118.7 points per 100 possessions and are yielding only 80.8 points to their opponent.
In the final five minutes of games, the Heat are outscoring their opponent by nearly 40 points.
Aside from scoring 38.8 points per 48 minutes in the clutch, James is also dishing out 14.9 dimes per 48.
In case your clouded head is filled with too much bong resin to remember back to last year, Chris Bosh had a moment extremely similar to what happened this past week against the San Antonio Spurs.
While he didn't hit the game-winner like he did against San Antonio, Bosh hit a crucial shot at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. Miami eventually pulled off the victory against the Atlanta Hawks, despite being without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Don't forget that this was also a time without Ray Allen. Bosh had 33 points and 14 rebounds in a game where Terrel Harris had 14 boards and Mario Chalmers finished with 29 points.
Bosh is also the only member of this Heat team to hit a game-winner in the NBA Finals. Pressure means nothing to the Heat power forward/center, and it's only going to get easier now that he already has his championship.
It's also helping that coach Erik Spoelstra is allowing Bosh to play some time as the Heat's primary scoring option. He has responded well with consecutive games of at least 20 points.
He's averaging career-lows across the board, but advanced shooting numbers tell a different story. Bosh is converting a league-best 53 percent of his jumpers in the space ranging from 16 feet to as far out as the perimeter, according to basketball-reference.com.
To put that into perspective, Dirk Nowitzki's career high from that area was 52 percent. Of course he also had plenty of more shooting opportunities, but Bosh's job is arguably more difficult when the ball may not even touch his hands in certain possessions.
The move to center has also been a bit disheartening. Compared to opposing centers, Bosh's 20.6 PER is only a few shades above his opponent's PER of 17.6. He is also a minus-3.8 when comparing his rebounding totals to that of his opponent, according to 82games.com.
As a member of the league's top clutch lineup, however, Bosh is a plus-126 who's team is outscoring its opponents by nearly 40, according to 82games.com
Miami was barely able to hang on before Bosh made his return in Game 5 against Boston last year. This year, the Heat are a plus-9.9 on offense and a plus-five on defense when comparing the Heat with and without Bosh on the floor.
He's also one of those players you want to have in the fourth. Although the volume of shots he takes in the fourth takes a significant drop (138 shots in the fourth compared to at least 220 in every other quarter), Bosh is converting 60 percent of his shots in the final frame.
He's also 65 percent on shots in the final five minutes and is a 52 percent shooter in games where the margin is five points, according to basketball-reference.com.
Chances are the Heat don't want to depend on Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, or Rashard Lewis for any lengthy stretches of the playoffs. It was bad enough watching Dexter Pittman make a fool of himself against Roy Hibbert last year for five minutes.