ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I have been on the job here at the All Ball Blog since the playoffs started, and somehow we have not had a true Horry Scale-worthy shot in the postseason. There have been a few close calls, sure, but no true buzzer-beating game-winners. That is, until last night, when LeBron James scored a bucket at the buzzer to give the Miami Heat a 103-102 OT win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
For those of you who are new around these parts, like myself, 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 (was it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or did it need 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 King James rate? Break down!
Actually, the shot itself wasn’t all that difficult. It was a layup. Lefty, sure, but still, it was a layup. And basically a wide-open layup, at that. Could the shot have been more difficult? For sure. (For instance, it could have been a jumper, open or contested.) But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t difficulty involved in the play, because the real difficulty was drawing up a play to get LeBron so wide open. Watching the play again, Erik Spoelstra initially used LeBron as a decoy, pretending to a set a screen for a cutting Ray Allen, and then ‘Bron spun and flashed to the ball, received the pass, turned and basically just sprinted right by his defender, Paul George. All that early movement had the Heat players running to corners, leaving the middle of the floor wide open, not only of Heat players but also Indiana defenders.
This brings up another way that this play could have been more difficult: If big Roy Hibbert had been in the game guarding the paint for the Pacers. Hibbert averaged 2.6 blocks this season for Indiana, and he had two Wednesday. Indiana coach Frank Vogel removed Hibbert on defense a few times down the stretch, because he didn’t want Hibbert to get stuck on a switch against a smaller player, or have to go out and guard Chris Bosh on the perimeter. And maybe this is just me, but if it were up to me, I’d rather lose on a long jumper from Bosh than a layup by LeBron.
What do you think, Roy, want to second-guess what would have happened if you’d been out there on the play?
The stakes were pretty high, as far as the Heat were concerned: Overtime. Dwyane Wade? Fouled out. Timeouts remaining? None. Heat? Down one. Two-point-two seconds on the clock. Doesn’t get much more tense than that.
It wasn’t the NBA Finals, but being in the playoffs, in the Conference finals, it was as close as you can get without actually getting there. And it wasn’t an elimination game, but other than all that, it doesn’t get much more important.
Whoever was directing this game for TNT did one of my favorite things, where as soon as the shot dropped, they switched to a camera way up at the top of the stadium so we could see the arena explode as the home team stole the win at the buzzer. It’s hard to see in the video above, but LeBron basically did the “stoic” celebration — staying calm, like he’s been in that situation before. My favorite celebration might have been the one from Dwyane Wade on the bench, who jumped about four feet into the air. Sore knee? Who me?
4 Horrys. I may be more lenient than previous teachers you guys have had here, but for me, LeBron’s game-winner ticked all the boxes. The only thing keeping it from being a Five Horry shot for me was that it was a layup. But then, that was due as much to LeBron’s insane athletic ability as it was to anything else. Also, I can’t come right out of the gate awarding Five Horrys to people. So there are still heights waiting to be reached.
What do you think?