ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — According to the schedule, it was the 16th night of the 2015-16 NBA schedule, plenty of time for rip roaring slam dunks, long and wild 3-pointers and all sorts of other craziness. But those of us with a sense of the dramatic know the season doesn’t really start until the sharpshooter rings in at the buzzer.
We’re talking, of course, about The Horry Scale, that measuring stick for clutchness, that barometer of bombastic balling, that dagger falling out of the sky delight that brings a worldwide community leaping up off the sofas and out of the La-Z-Boys to celebrate in joyous glee.
Well, the truth is that it might only have been friends and families of the participants who were tuned in on LeaguePass Wednesday night to see Nic Vucevic work his magic for the Magic. And, of course, it happened at the expense of the hapless, luckless Lakers.
Before we go any farther, what is the Horry Scale? For those newbies, 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 night in November?) and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.
One thing to get straight: 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. In short, it’s about the total package.
If you’re going to get off a last-second shot, it makes sense to get it to a big man who can get the clearest look at the basket. So Orlando’s Tobias Harris pulled the trigger on a clean inbounds pass to 7-foot Vucevic, who turned and arced an 18-foot turnaround over Roy Hibbert that splashed into nothing but the bottom of the net to give the Magic a 101-99 win.
It looked like the Lakers — playing for the second straight night without Kobe Bryant (sore back) — might have pulled this one out on their final possession. That’s when Lou Williams fired up a jumper that looked like it might have grazed the rim. Hibbert grabbed the rebound and deposited into the hoop with 0.8 seconds showing on the clock. But a replay review instead ruled that Williams missed the rim entirely and the Magic were given the ball and their chance with the score tied at 99-all.
It wasn’t exactly dripping with playoff drama. We’re talking about a Magic team that is bumping along at 3-5 on the season and the 1-6 Lakers searching for just their second win.
Vucevic, who was back in the lineup after a three-game absence, knew it was good as soon as the ball left his hand, turned and raced down the court, where he got a hug from assist man Harris and then was mobbed by his teammates. The finish was more notable for the glum look on the faces of the Lakers, who keep wondering what misfortune will strike them next.
We’ve got to admit, we’d have liked a game with a bit more significance — or at least one team with a winning record — for the first Horry Scale appearance. But more than two weeks, it was good to see somebody, anybody, provide the last-second lightning that makes all of the TV highlight shows. It wasn’t a shot that involved mind-boggling acrobatics. Just a nicely-executed inbounds pass and a dagger-in-the-heart jumper from a big man who can shoot the ball. We can’t get too excited over mid-week win in a game between a couple of bottom-feeders. So we’re giving this one two Horrys and leaving room for plenty of improvement and much more significance in the coming months.