The Basketball Champions League's Most Clutch Players
MADRID (Spain) - Big players make big shots. Last season that sentence was the main premise behind my case for backing Tyrese Rice to be Basketball Champions League MVP. It turned out to be the exact reason he won the award - Rice hit big shot after big shot and guided Bamberg to the Final Four in their first BCL season. The season before that, Dusan Sakota was Mr. Fourth Quarter for AEK as they marched to the title. This season we have multiple rivals to claim the title of the BCL's Most Clutch Player (MCP), AKA "The King in the Fourth". Of all those candidates, three men stand out above all.
First, we need to establish what we mean when we say clutch and the very first tenet has to be winning. A player can go as crazy as they like down the stretch of a close game but if their team doesn't win, it means nothing. The next thing we need to consider is consistency. We are talking about the guys that are able to switch it on in the money time all season. The last thing to consider is true clutch scoring. In this case, we have deemed that to be the last 5 minutes of a 5 point game.
AEK's player of the series in the R16 vs Telekom Baskets Bonn was Keith Langford as joint top-scorer in the Play-Offs with 22.5 points in 2 games. With Langford it's more than just the scoring, it is the degree of difficulty in the shots he scores. This is a player that makes the shots the defense wants him to take. Watch the video below and you will observe two things; one, Langford consistently takes and makes tough, contested shots off the dribble down the stretch, and two, he has been doing it all season.
Langford ranks third overall for scoring the last 5 minutes of all games with 49 points in 14 games and first of all scorers during the last 5 minutes of the Play-Offs with 15 points in 2 games. Langford also scored 33 points in the last 3 minutes (including OT) of games, which ranked him joint third in the league with the next candidate in this story.
Considering the type of shots that Tyler Stone has hit this year, he might need to change his name to Tyler Stones. The best value-for-money ticket in the BCL this season has almost certainly been Happy Casa Brindisi. Those fans in Brindisi saw 3 games decided by a final shot with less than 2 seconds on the clock, with two of those games being walk-off buzzer-beaters. Stone was instrumental in the drama every time. If you hit two game-winners in one season you are instantly amongst the most clutch players in the league. Those two shots were, however, far from lucky. Stone joins Keith Langford by ranking third in the BCL for scoring in the last 3 minutes of games (including OT) with 33 points. Only Gabe York and Shaq McKissic finished with more points in the dying possessions of games.
If this conversation was purely about fourth-quarter scoring J'Covan Brown would have this in the bag. Brown leads the league for scoring in the final stanza and OT with 87 points over the Regular Season. The other protagonists in this story Keith Langford and Tyler Stone finished the season with 74 and 72 points respectively. During the Round of 16 Brown was at it again. In the second leg against Peristeri Winmasters, on the road, Brown scored 17 points in the fourth quarter. Every time the team from Athens fought their way back into the game, JB came up with a big shot to take it away from them again. His total of 20 fourth-quarter points in the Round of 16 again ranked him #1 in the BCL.
Peristeri were, of course, not the only team from Athens to lose a game with the ball in the hands of Brown Sr. Watch the video below and you will see that AEK and Keith Langford also fell foul of his clutch-time wizardry earlier in the season at the Pais Arena.
The difference between these three is too close to call so we will leave it up to you guys to tell us who you think has been this season's BCL King in the Fourth.
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