by Zettler Clay IV
Horry moments never come solo. They come with company.
After watching Jordan Crawford go on the road and finish off the Trail Blazers earlier this week on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, DeMar Derozan repeated the act across country in Orlando. And like one of his predecessors (J.R. Smith), he took a liking to that left baseline corner, rising and fading over two defenders right in front of the Magic’s bench to finish off a stellar period.
D-Roz’s shot didn’t happen in a vacuum. It culminated a frenzied night for both teams, with 12 lead changes and a lot of players getting in on the action (12 players notched double figures in scoring). The Raptors had been in a string of close games (overtime in three of previous four matchups) and had no intention of carrying this game past the regulation mark.
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?). Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
How does DeRozan’s shot Thursday night stack up? Without further ado…
DeRozan likes the mid-range area, shooting over 100 more shots there than the paint (his next favorite spot). Even still, this was a nice shot. The high jumper safely made it through the bucket only after the Compton native took a pass from Jose Calderon, a couple dribbles to his left and launched with two defenders in hot pursuit. Glen Davis was just a shade too late, allowing a sliver of daylight to a hot shooter (more on this later) at the wrong time of the game.
This was evocative of the kind of shot Kobe Bryant makes on a regular basis.
Again, this was a back-and-forth affair. With under a minute left, DeRozan put the Raptors ahead with a jumper after J.J. Redick completed a four-point play. E’Twaun Moore scored two off an offensive rebound, tying the game, setting up the final shot with the score tied at 95 with 4.3 seconds to go.
A cursory glance says “this was just two bottom-rung teams slugging it out.” Which is true (both teams are a combined 30-56). However, for DeRozan, this was significant. For a player looking to establish himself as a 2-guard to watch, closing a game out like this is a good route to take. He had only eight points going into the fourth quarter, then erupted for 14 (7-of-8, six jumpers). What happened? Well for one, Orlando went small. For a player who eats off mid-range jumpers and getting into the paint, this is a boon.
Consequently, he got hot, obviating the Raptors’ blown double-digit lead and botched defensive coverages (including the aforementioned four-point play by Redick). Thanks to his heroics, the Raptors made a step toward closing games out, which has been their Achilles’ heel this season.
Oh and also worth noting? According to “Inside the NBA” stats maven Joe “Underdog” Underhill, DeRozan’s shot was the first Raptors buzzer-beater since T.J. Ford sank the Clippers way back on Dec. 20, 2006 with a jumper over Quinton Ross. That’s more than seven years since Toronto has hopped on the Horry!
For the Magic, chalk this up to another lesson for a young team still learning how to win in this league.
No jumping. No yelling. No smiling. Just a couple arms in the air and plain grit on the face of D-Roz as teammates Amir Johnson and Calderon came for the man-hugs. The dejected body languages on Redick and Jameer Nelson told the tale as much as the Raptors’ celebration.
The Raptors looked more relieved at not losing in Orlando than thrilled at ending the game in such a dramatic fashion. Coach Dwane Casey isn’t prone to histrionics. Neither is his team.
But Alan Anderson’s ball spike after the shot fell through was top notch.
*Editor’s note: Prior to DeRozan’s post-game interview, Casey did run up to give DeRozan a good smooch on the cheek. Must say, this ratchets the celebration factor up a bit.
3 Horrys. I suppose the shot could’ve been harder, if there were three defenders on him. Only two knocks on the rating: the tie game and subdued celebration (minus the kiss from coach). I’m all for a little grit. But you sent the opposing crowd home bitter right as time expired. Live it up a little. Either way, an incredible shot to end a superb fourth quarter for DeRozan.
What sayeth you?