By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com
VIDEO: Lillard’s GWBB
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Earlier tonight I was at Brooklyn/Toronto Game 6, and I was talking with another media member about just how memorable the first round of these playoffs have been. A record number of Game 7s, tons of amazing finishes. HOWEVA, as I pointed out, there had been just one game winning buzzer beater thus far — Vince Carter against the Spurs. From my mouth to the basketball god’s ears, that all changed a few hours later, thanks to Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers, who eliminated the Houston Rockets with a dagger at the buzzer of Game 6 to end the series and give Portland a 99-98 win.
Before we go any further, 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.
One thing I’d like to clear up: The Horry Scale does not measure only a game-winning shot; the Horry Scale measures several facets of a Game-Winning Buzzer-Beater. So we’re talking about not only the shot, but also the play that creates the shot, the situation and the drama, the celebrations … basically, everything surrounding and including the shot. So when I gave Randy Foye a 3 Horry rating, that wasn’t only a reflection of his shot, which was admittedly remarkable, as I wrote, but also the play, which was awful. Taj Gibson’s lefty layup wasn’t the toughest shot, but that inbounds play was terrific. Basically, everything matters.
After 18 regular season entries, we now have our second of the postseason. Let’s break this down…
As a shot, it wasn’t the toughest, mainly because Lillard was so open. On the inbound pass, Lillard basically just outran defender Chandler Parsons to get to the ball. You may wonder why a forward was guarding a much faster point guard on the play. This is a valid question. It wasn’t like Parsons got picked or screened, he was just out-run by Lillard, who was able to catch a pass and turn and shoot. And I love how if you look closely, you can see how he calls for the ball as he runs toward it. “I squared up and snapped my wrist,” Lillard told ESPN’s Heather Cox in his postgame interview, giving Portland their first first-round series win since 2000.
This has been a series about as close as it gets. These teams had turned in three overtime performances in their first five games, and this seemed destined for another OT. On their final possession, the Rockets weren’t able to get a clear look, until a rebound fell into Parsons’ hands under the basket and he flipped it up and in an easy shot to give Houston the lead with 0.9 remaining. It seemed like this was destined to go to 7 games like so many other series. But on the ensuing inbound, Lillard broke free and send the Rockets back to Texas.
I’m going to let this Vine speak for me. Crank up the volume and check this out…
I took some heat earlier this season when I gave some shots lower grades than you guys felt some shots deserved. My rationale was that the moments weren’t as large as they would be late in the season or in the postseason. Like tonight. The last time someone made a GWBB to end a series?
So yeah. I briefly thought about giving this shot 6 Horrys. But no. I’m going 5 Horrys…
What say you? How many Horry’s would you give Damian Lillard’s GWBB?