by Jeff Case
Stemming from his days as the No. 1 scorer on the Golden State Warriors, Monta Ellis has a bit of a reputation as a chucker — particularly from 3-point range. That belief (in the Warriors-era Ellis, at least) is not unfounded, especially when you review his advanced stats from those seasons. For the record, Ellis spent his first 6 1/2 seasons in Oakland. In those seasons, here’s what percentage of his points came from 3-point attempts during his Warriors years: 2005-06 (25.8 percent), 2006-07 (14.2), 2007-08 (4.2), 2008-09 (6.0), 2009-10 (16.2), 2010-11 (23.5) and 2011-12 (19.3).
This season, his first full one in Milwaukee, Ellis’ percentage of points from 3-point attempts is at 20.1 and when Ellis gets on the road this season, that percentage bumps up to 23.4. So, overall, not much of a big change in his game, even with a change of scenery.
Good thing that Ellis is so 3-happy, though, because they needed his long-range touch last night to pull off a stunner at the Toyota Center over the Houston Rockets. The Rockets seemed in control of this one early, but by halftime everything was tied up and a second half of lead changes and ties ensued. James Harden knotted the score at 107 with 34.7 seconds left and the Bucks actually had a couple of non-dramatic chances to win this, but couldn’t come through until Ellis saved their bacon.
This was almost a three-Horry night in the NBA, but one shot (Wes Johnson‘s vs. San Antonio) simply tied the game and another one (Trevor Ariza‘s “Dagger”-turned-non-”Dagger” vs. Detroit) didn’t even hit the rim.
Oh well, at least we’ve got Ellis to examine.
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 Ellis’ game-winning shot Wednesday night stack up? Let’s dive in …
Do Jennings and Ellis have a running competition to see who can sink a game winner with the least amount of time left on the clock? When Jennings made his shot against the Cavs on Nov. 4, he did so with :00.7 remaining in the game. Last night, when Ellis made his shot, there was about :00.8 on the clock when the ball left his hands. That’s just the sort of thing that Milwaukee’s explosive-if-unpredictable backcourt can do from game to game.
Back to Ellis’ shot, though: could it have been tougher? First, he’s camped out left of the 3-point line waiting for a pass from Jennings that seemingly isn’t going to come. As Jennings tries to drive on Jeremy Lin (and is subsequently cut off), Jennings pitches it to Ellis with about a second left with Ellis facing the sideline as he catches it. In one quick motion, Ellis turns to the basket, fades on the 6-foot-9 Chandler Parsons and chucks it toward the rim. Keep in mind that Ellis is listed at 6-foot-3, but that might be stretching things.
Much like the baseline floater that J.R. Smith nailed to do in the Suns earlier this season, a scorer like Ellis always knows where the rim is, knows how much space he needs and knows the shot clock/game clock situation. Unlike Smith, Ellis wasn’t faced with a designed play for him to get the ball.
In terms of difficulty, it’s hard to find a tougher shot (that the Bucks chose to take) in this situation.
Score tied at 107 with, Bucks have the ball at midcourt. Had Ellis missed, this one is headed to OT and a chance for the Bucks and Rockets — the current No. 8 seeds in their respective conferences — to bolster their playoff bids with a victory.
If we are going by eras in Milwaukee, the Bucks were 26-27 in the first full season of the Jennings-Ellis pairing and were 1-1 in the two games since they acquired J.J. Redick from the Orlando Magic in a trade deadline-day deal. What’s more important than eras in Milwaukee (or Houston, for that matter) is staying in the playoff race. The Bucks have less to worry on that front as the Sixers, Raptors and Pistons have a far-off-at-best shot at the postseason. In the West, the Rockets have a much tougher bid for No. 8 with the disappointing Lakers trying to get back to .500 and climb into Houston’s spot.
Overall, in terms of the playoff chase, this one likely meant more to Houston’s cause than Milwaukee’s (although a first-round date with the Heat isn’t exactly something the Bucks are savoring).
Gotta love the mad dash for the locker room that Ellis makes after his shot. And as a confident-if-streaky shooter, Ellis told The Associated Press what we’d expect to hear from him after sinking that shot: “I just threw it up. The buzzer went off when it was rolling around the rim. Wasn’t any need for me to come back out [to see the review].” Basically, there’s no celebration here for the Bucks because Ellis just wants to get to the Houston airport and back to Milwaukee as soon as possible.
4 1/2 Horrys. Smith’s buzzer-beater against the Suns came off a clearly set play in a different situation. But to us, something about this Ellis shot has a lot in common with Smith’s in Arizona a few months ago. Call Ellis a 3-point chucker if you like (and as his shot charts show, he likes the 3-ball), but also call him Horry-like for coming through with a pretty tough shot.
What sayeth you?