NBA Standings ordered by net rating in clutch time

Denver Nuggets v Chicago Bulls
Denver Nuggets v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

One thing that everyone seems to talk about and gravitate towards when discussing the NBA and the elite teams is performance in the clutch. It seems extra relevant at the moment as the defending champions, the Denver Nuggets, and the current favorites to win the title, the Boston Celtics both lost crunch time games on national TV Tuesday night.

The Nuggets and Celtics have two of the best overall records in the NBA, as the Celtics are 48-13 and the Nuggets are 42-20 on the season. But how do these titans stack up with the rest of the league in crunch-time games? The NBA considers crunch time to be any game that is within 5 points at any point during the final 5 minutes.

NBA Standings ordered by net rating in clutch time

  1. Denver Nuggets: 20-11 (+23.1 NET)
  2. Chicago Bulls: 20-15 (+22.6)
  3. New York Knicks: 13-11 (+22.4)
  4. Milwaukee Bucks: 20-10 (+20.7)
  5. Boston Celtics: 18-9 (+20.0)
  6. Dallas Maverick: 17-8 (+16.9)
  7. Utah Jazz: 13-12 (+16.5)
  8. Oklahoma City Thunder: 17-12 (+15.3)
  9. Indiana Pacers: 17-13 (+9.6)
  10. Los Angeles Lakers: 18-8 (+9.4)
  11. Los Angeles Clippers: 17-13 (+8.8)
  12. Sacramento Kings: 17-12 (+5.7)
  13. Orlando Magic: 19-11 (+4.8)
  14. Portland Trail Blazers: 13-15 (+1.6)
  15. Cleveland Cavaliers: 16-16 (+1.0)
  16. Charlotte Hornets: 12-16 (-2.4)
  17. Philadelphia 76ers: 12-12 (-3.3)
  18. Houston Rockets: 12-19 (-5.6)
  19. Golden State Warriors: 18-19 (-6.2)
  20. Toronto Raptors: 15-20 (-6.8)
  21. Phoenix Suns: 16-18 (-7.5)
  22. Brooklyn Nets: 10-16 (-7.9)
  23. Minnesota Timberwolves: 16-12 (-8.1)
  24. Miami Heat: 18-13 (-9.1)
  25. San Antonio Spurs: 7-21 (-14.0)
  26. Memphis Grizzlies: 11-17 (-14.3)
  27. Atlanta Hawks: 16-20 (-15.1)
  28. New Orleans Pelicans: 9-13 (-18.0)
  29. Detroit Pistons: 6-23 (-39.0)
  30. Washington Wizards: 3-21 (-55.1)


So what stands out? Well for one, this is an imperfect stat. Net ratings can be skewed by a few outlier games, especially in this small sample size. Just look at a team like the Heat, who are 24th, with a -9.1 net rating, yet they are 18-13 in crunch-time games on the season. Or the Trail Blazers, 14th in the league with a positive net rating despite a losing record in crunch-time games. 

Call me crazy, but in a tight game down the stretch, I like my chances backing the Heat over the Blazers. Still, there are some meaningful takeaways from these rankings, and it’s not a coincidence that the Nuggets top the chart.

This matches the eye test of what Nuggets fans have been seeing all season; a team that is poised and in control in clutch situations. So despite losing on Tuesday night in overtime, the Nuggets are still the best crunch-time team in the NBA and are outsourcing opponents by more than 23 points per 100 possessions in those situations.

Unsurprisingly, despite blowing their own game, the Celtics are still top 5 in these situations with a +20 rating. Get your popcorn ready for the Thursday night heavyweight clash between the Celtics and Nuggets. It should be a doozy.

PS: Good grief, Pistons and Wizards...