by Zettler Clay IV
How fitting is it that the next Horry Scale participant — James Johnson — would top Smith’s Knicks with a terminator of his own?
The Sacramento Kings led by as many as 27 points, but Manhattan’s own (playing without Carmelo Anthony) mounted a furious comeback. On the penultimate possession, Jason Kidd saw Tyson Chandler cutting to the basket. As he’s done a million times before, Kidd lobs the alley. But he didn’t see DeMarcus Cousins waiting for the pass.
Cousins stole it and an Isaiah Thomas miss, tip rebound, pass and Johnson 3-pointer later sealed a wild contest and the highest ranking of the Horry Scale in two years.
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 (is it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or needs more sauce?), and gives it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
How does Johnson’s shot Friday night stack up? Let’s take a look.
To say the Kings got lucky is an understatement. They blew a huge lead. The Knicks grabbed lead late in the game and looked like victory. Then Kidd made an errant pass, which led to Sacramento’s final possession. Thomas dribbled left and launched a shot that hit nothing but backboard. Johnson outfought Kidd and Chandler to tip the ball back out. Thomas corrals the ball from near midcourt, makes move to middle of the paint.
One pass to the corner to John Salmons, who fired the rock to the right wing. Steve Novak almost intercepted the pass, but the ball landed safely in the hands of Johnson. And despite his 0-for-11 mark from 3-point territory this season (and 28 percent career mark from there), Johnson iced the shot.
Or you can look at it this way: The Kings were out of control on the final possession and were bailed out by a lucky 3. But that’s nibbling … at the end of the day, a made shot is a made shot.
It also brought back memories of the man who helped inspire this very Horry scale:
Ironically, Horry’s shot was against the Kings.
Knicks led Kings by two — 105-103 — at time of Johnson’s game-winner. A miss ends the game, giving the Kings a bad taste after blowing such a lead. It would have also given the Knicks their second win of the road trip.
The play was significant on two levels. Primarily, this loss would have sunk morale to lower levels in Sacramento. The Kings were staring down the barrel of more condescending “there’s Kings basketball, blowing 20-plus leads at home” talk. Facing a tenuous future, star player troubles and a general lack of court identity, the Kings needed Johnson’s shot to fall in the worst way.
Secondly, it gives them a quality win. When you’ve only won nine games, as the Kings have, a win over the staunch Knicks is nothing to take lightly. At the very least, Sacramento has a breath of fresh air in the midst of a dirty fishbowl season.
The euphoria of Sleep Train Arena and the Kings’ sideline contrasted perfectly with Knicks coach Mike Woodson’s grimace and his team’s look of misfortune. As Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Co. showed us before, very few basketball arenas know how to crank up the noise like Sacramento. The Kings looked more relieved than utopic (not a word?). In this case, those two are probably one in the same.
5 Horrys. Only one shot has generated 5 Horrys: Tyreke Evans’ crosscourt heave to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies two seasons ago.
(Is it safe to say that the Kings franchise is a vital part of the Horry Scale lifeblood?)
Well, make this two. Johnson’s actual shot wasn’t nearly as impressive (how do you top a fullcourt shot to nab a win at the buzzer?), but within the context of the season, it stands out as much. He gave Sacramento an extra shot with his hustle before delivering the nail. Johnson is far from a marksman from distance, perhaps the most unlikely King on the court to make that play. While the dwindling clock gave him no choice but to launch, his ability to come through prevented the Kings’ worst loss of the season and secured a win at the same time. With that, Sacramento made its biggest contribution to the NBA storyline this season, vanquishing the Knicks in most dramatic fashion.
What sayeth you?