by Jeff Case
Nothing better than more entries on the Horry Scale. Or, in this case, Mo entries.
The Jazz have been hovering around .500 all season, but a recent stretch of wins against the Lakers (in L.A.) and a nice rally against Toronto has Utah finding its rhythm. Being in a flow hasn’t been a problem for the Spurs, who — surprise!! — have been in and out of the No. 1 spot in the West all season. A nationally televised date between San Antonio and Utah in Salt Lake City wouldn’t seem to be a thriller in the making, especially given the Spurs’ defensive rating (6th) and the Jazz’s propensity for poor defense (20th in defensive rating). Yet down the stretch, we were treated to a Jazz-Spurs game that brought back memories of their 1990s rivalry, with Mo Williams putting on the hero cape this time.
For those that are new around these parts, the Horry scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?), and celebration, and gives it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
How does Williams’ shot Wednesday night stack up? Let’s take a look.
We’ll detail the play itself below — which the Spurs defended well twice — but overall the shot wasn’t too, too difficult for an NBA player of Williams’ caliber. San Antonio’s Danny Green was all over Williams on two different inbounds plays the Jazz tried to run and played him well once he got the ball. Williams wasn’t having a pretty night at this point — he was 3-for-8 from the field and 0-for-3 on 3-pointers. But Utah traded Devin Harris (a career 31.4 percent 3-point shooter) and picked up Williams (a career 38.6 shooter) in the offseason in separate deals because of Williams’ ability to make big 3-pointers. He came through this night.
Utah rallies from a 90-83 hole with 4:50 left to eventually tie the score off Paul Millsap‘s short jumper in the paint with 40 seconds to go. After a missed jumper by Tony Parker — which Williams rebounds and brings up court — Williams takes a 3-pointer that goes off the front of the rim. Millsap rebounds it and the Jazz call timeout and set up a play, but Gordon Hayward struggles to find an open man and calls another timeout. Hayward is the trigger man again and Williams tries to work off an Al Jefferson screen with Green right on his hip, but eventually gets the ball. Williams dribbles out near the wing, gets about two feet behind the 3-point line and lets fly with Green closing out nicely. All net and buzzer, though.
As we mentioned above, the Jazz have been up and down all season, nearly matching a bad win with a good win game by game. But thanks to a West-leading 9-1 mark in front of the always-faithful Jazz fans at EnergySolutions Arena, Utah is No. 6 in the West and staying in the thick of things. San Antonio, as mentioned, is as elite as ever and came into the game having won 10 of its last 11 and sporting the best record in the NBA. It’s hard to imagine either team swapping positions once May comes around, but for both teams, wins and losses against playoff-level/elite-caliber opponents are what can build (or break) confidence, especially in the case of the youthful Jazz.
All that said, this one probably had a little more importance for the Spurs. They’re in a dogfight with Memphis and OKC for the No. 1 spot in the West and, in case you forgot, the third tiebreaker for playoff seeding is better winning percentage against teams in the conference.
Say what you want about Jazz fans, but those folks know how to celebrate a moment. Williams basks in the glory of the home crowd’s adulation as he runs to the opposite end of the court and is mobbed by Hayward, Enes Kanter and others. Exactly what we’ve come to expect from Jazz players in Utah, but nothing too over the top.
3 1/2 Horrys. We gave the Parker-over-OKC shot 3 1/2 and this one fits many of the same criteria. Early-season matchups between playoff teams from 2012? Check. A game that — depending on your point of view — will help or harm a playoff case a few months from now? Check. Great celebration in front of an always-loyal home crowd? Check. This is prime 3 1/2-star territory.
Much like our last Horry Scale participant, J.R. Smith, Williams shows the calmness and mental toughness to shake off a rough shooting night and be the hero when his team needed it.That’s something ol’ Mr. Horry used to do. That’s what we like about this one.
What sayeth you?