VIDEO: Monta Ellis GWBB
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I can not tell a lie: It has been a season of highs and lows here at Horry Scale Central. We began the season with three Game-Winning Buzzer-Beaters within seven days, a flurry of activity to make even the most jaded NBA watcher’s head twirl. This required me to write three Horry Scale posts in succession, which turned out to be a controversial endeavor. Folks weren’t happy with my rating of the Jeff Green GWBB, which kept me up very late at night, triggering some difficult and genuine soul searching, at least as far as you know. Since then I have perhaps tried to overcorrect with some of my other ratings, a maneuver that has in no small part generated its own share of controversy, and which has caused something of an existential Horry Scale crisis.
But I digress. Before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain: What is the Horry Scale? For those who 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.
With the rules in place, Today we turn our tired eyes to the lovely Pacific Northwest. Let’s check out last night’s game-winner from Monta Ellis…
Monta Ellis has made tougher shots in his career, probably even in this game. This was basically a catch-and-shoot on a curl coming around a screen, a shot Ellis has taken thousands of times in his life. And Ellis made a clean catch, swung around the screen, and had a wide open look at the basket. And yes, he drained the shot, so kudos to him. To me the most interesting thing on this play was that the Blazers did not switch defenders on the screen. In the NBA, for the most part defenders always switch on picks in the last few seconds of a game, and particularly on an inbounds play. This is not only easy for the players on the floor to remember, in a more general sense it means defenders are always running at the ball when there are only seconds to play. But as Ellis came around the series of screens, Portland’s Wesley Matthews tried to stay with him, with no real help waiting for him. (As my main man Ben Golliver reports on Blazers Edge, Portland had decided before the play to only switch guard-on-guard screens. Dallas’ other guard on the floor was Jose Calderon, who was inbounding the ball, so the Blazers all knew there would effectively be no switching.) By the time Ellis caught the pass, curled around the pick from DaJuan Blair and popped free at the top of the key, Portland’s best defensive option may have been LaMarcus Aldridge, who was flat-footed about six feet away from Ellis. Matthews made a last-second swipe at the ball from behind while trying to recover, but he couldn’t make a difference.
What you don’t see in the clip above is the clutch three-pointer Lillard made to tie the game with 1.9 seconds remaining. That play was set up by a Dallas turnover from, you guessed it, Monta Ellis. So in many ways this GWBB was about redemption for Monta. Still, once Dallas got the ball with the game tied, it seemed like it would probably be Dirk Nowitzki time, right? Even in the video above, as the Mavs line up for the play, you can hear Portland analyst Mike Rice note, “Watch [DaJuan] Blair set a pick for either Vince Carter or Dirk.” So Dallas coach Rick Carlisle using the situation to run a play for Ellis was not only in retrospect a wise choice, it was crafty, as well.
This was big on both sides. The Blazers had been riding a four-game winning streak, and had amassed eight straight wins at home. The crowd in Portland, which is always among the best in sports, was rowdy and sold out, twenty-thousand strong. The Mavs, meanwhile, after an offseason that was quieter than most expected, have been something of a mild surprise this season, bobbing along a couple of games above .500. Any road win in the NBA is a good thing, but a road win over the best team in the Conference is always a great thing.
The Mavs seemed really fired up by Ellis’ shot, surrounding him and grabbing him. Also, I’m pretty sure someone ran off the Dallas bench and hit Ellis with a large cushion at about the 19-second mark of the video. I particularly enjoyed this facet of the celebration: The cushion bash needs to become a regular part of post-shot celebrations.
If nothing else, Mavs owner Mark Cuban was jacked up about it…
I think we can all agree that the degree of difficulty wasn’t through the roof, at least just as a jump shot, in a bubble. But all the other parts of this play — Ellis’ earlier turnover, Lillard’s game-tying three moments earlier, Portland’s home win streak, Dallas’ execution on the final play — give added weight to the play. This is one of those situations where I wish we had half-Horrys to award, because I really feel like this is a 3.5 Horry Play. Should I round up or down? That’s another discussion for another day. In this case, I’m going with four Horrys, because for me the post-shot cushion bash lifts it from three to four…
That’s my take. How many Horry’s would you give the Monta Ellis game-winner?