Is LeBron really a clutch player now?

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Is LeBron really a clutch player now?

There is a common belief among basketball fans that LeBron James has turned into a clutch fourth quarter player this season. The numbers would seem to back up that belief. After all, his scoring, rebounding and usage numbers are all up in clutch situations. The NBA defines clutch stats by performance in the final five minutes of close games (score is within 5).

His 15 point fourth quarter game against the Sixers on April 3rd and his 17 point monster close-out effort against the Nets on April 16th support that. Yes, LeBron James is showing up in the fourth quarter and the "75 cents" jokes that our Bulls analyst Kendall Gill loves to make may not be accurate anymore.

However, when it comes to "game on the line" situations, that is, a possession in the final 30 seconds of a game in which the player's team is tied or trailing by 3 points or less, LeBron rarely takes the final shot.

Watch the closing possession for the Heat yesterday against the Knicks, Dwyane Wade takes the final shot and LeBron doesn't even touch the ball. Now, you can't base a belief off one play, but the Heat have had 18 shots this season (including the playoffs) in a "game on the line" situation. Of those 18 shots, LeBron has only taken three of them. Three.

For comparison, Kobe Bryant, who is widely considered the best active "clutch" player in the NBA has taken 15 of the Lakers' 22 shots with the game on the line. Kevin Durant has taken 20 of the Thunder's 26. LeBron just 3 of 18.

You can argue that he is meant to be a decoy, you can argue that he doesn't want the ball in that situation, you can argue that Wade is the better option, but the fact is that when the Heat need a winning shot, LeBron James is normally watching someone else take it. LeBron is not as "clutch" as people think he is.

I'd love to hear your theories on why this happens. Use our comment option at the bottom of the page or tweet me @CSNKevin.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

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The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 26 of 28 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.