by Jeff Case
If it seems like the Horry Scale has weighed the Blazers more than few times since we started this venture back in 2010, it’s not that far off. By our count, Portland has been on the Horry Scale — either as the Horry-er (aka the shot-maker) or as the Horry-ee (aka the victim) — three times, including once this season, entering Tuesday’s action. The Blazers’ mark in those Horry situations? They’re 2-1 … but let’s make that 3-1 after LaMarcus Aldridge went to a reliable Horry shot to sink his hometown Mavs.
If Aldridge’s game-winner last night that you see above looks an awful lot like another recent Horry shot from him, you’ve got a sharp memory. Just a little more than a year ago, Aldridge victimized the Mavs in Dallas with a fadeaway jumper at the horn over Brendan Haywood. Haywood has since moved on to Charlotte, but that didn’t stop Aldridge from victimizing another Mav (with a similar-sounding first name), Brandan Wright, with a nearly identical shot.
(Props to our crack multimedia crew at the NBA Digital empire for cranking out this great look at Aldridge’s last two Horry shots).
Of course, it takes a team effort to set the stage for a shot like Aldridge’s and the Blazers needed everyone’s effort on Tuesday to get into a spot where they could win this game. The Mavs essentially had the Blazers finished after building a 69-48 lead off O.J. Mayo‘s stepback 3-pointer with 8 minutes, 37 seconds left. By late in the fourth quarter rolled, though, we had a lead-changing frenzy.
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 Aldridge’s shot Tuesday night stack up? Let’s dive in …
At times to the chagrin of Blazer fans, Aldridge has made his All-Star bones as a perimeter shooter, so it’s fitting he’d favor that shot to clinch a victory. Shot selection is key when there’s 1.5 seconds to go, so kudos to coach Terry Stotts for putting Aldridge in position to succeed. Much like his shot against the Mavs in 2012, Aldridge sets up on the low post. Unlike against Dallas, though, Aldridge knows he doesn’t have time to move out to the perimeter, catch the ball and take two dribbles to set up his shot. So he gets position on Wright, receives the ball from inbounder Wesley Matthews, turns … fades … and that’s the ballgame.
For Dallas, Mayo provides token pressure on the inbounds, Vince Carter stays at home with Nicolas Batum on the left baseline, making this a one-on-one situation for Aldridge. Darren Collison appears to try and help Wright from underneath, but he can’t get there in time.
Overall, this is an All-Star-vs.-rotation-player situation, and not surprisingly, the All-Star gets what he wants. Wright defends it pretty well, but Aldridge knows what he’s doing here.
Tie ballgame between two low-to-mid-level West teams … not a shocker, right? Wrong. As we mentioned, the Blazers were down 21 in the third and looked cooked. Portland’s bench won’t win any productivity awards this season, but without those reserves, the Blazers wouldn’t have won. Big contributions from Sasha Pavlovic and Ronnie Price in the fourth quarter kept the Blazers ahead or tied with the Mavs down the stretch. No play was perhaps bigger for that crew than Price drawing a charge on Mayo with 1.5 seconds left.
The Mavs weren’t without their own displays of clutch-itude, what with Collison banking in a wacky 3-pointer with 3:01 left and Dirk Nowitzki draining what at the time seemed to be a back-breaking 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds left to give Dallas a 104-101 lead.
Aldridge, being the hero he was this night, answered Nowitzki’s 3-pointer with one of his own with 4.9 seconds left, setting up Price’s defensive stand and Aldridge’s game-winner.
Portland is still trying to stay in the West playoff race and this one helps the cause, pulling them within a game of eighth-seeded Houston.
For Dallas, it is another rough loss in a season filled with them — the Mavs are now 2-5 in games decided by three points or less (Portland is 8-3 in such games).
One win can never make up for a loss elsewhere, but no doubt this one had to lessen the sting of the last Horry moment at the Rose Garden — Washington’s Jordan Crawford draining a 3-pointer at the horn to drop Portland just eight days ago.
Teammates Nicolas Batum (a Horry Scale inductee himself in 2011) said Aldridge was “smiling like a rookie” after hitting his shot. Aldridge, who starred at the University of Texas and Dallas-area high school Seagoville, simply turns and looks at the Mavs’ bench a little before laughing, smiling and walking up court. Matthews chest bumps him first before everyone short of ex-Blazer James “Hollywood” Robinson comes running toward him from the Blazers’ bench to celebrate.
There’s one last huddle up and then the Blazers head out to the locker room.
4 Horrys. Tough shot for most players, but pretty routine for Aldridge. This one kind of ranks up there in importance with the J.R. Smith shot against the Bobcats earlier this season in that the defense gave a standout player just the kind of shot he wanted. Overall, it should be three stars. But I give it that extra star bump for the clutch-iness of Aldridge in not just nailing the game-winner, but also the game-tying shot, too. If that’s not the sort of thing Horry used to do, I don’t know what is.
What sayeth you?