ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Monday saw the start of the Chinese New Year, and to kick the new year off right, the Golden State Warriors’ guard Klay Thompson went into San Francisco’s Chinatown to unveil the Warriors’ Chinese New Years jerseys and try his hand at making some fortune cookies. How did he do? Check the video below…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Hang around the NBA long enough and you’ll hear the phrase: “You reach, I teach.” And on this play in last night’s Brooklyn/Denver game, we basically saw it come to life. Denver big man Jusuf Nurkic got switched onto Brooklyn forward Joe Johnson on this possession, and just when Nurkic reaches in and tries for the steal, Johnson crosses him over and sends him to the floor. And check the second angle on the video, where you see the Nets bench go crazy…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Admittedly, this was not the sort of scenario with which Robert Horry typically was associated. A fellow who became synonymous with clutch postseason shots would seem to have nothing in common with a pair of NBA cellar dwellers. The Denver Nuggets, in 11th place in the Western Conference, were in Brooklyn to take on the Nets, the East’s 14th place club. Combined, the team were 36 games under .500 when the night’s action began.
They remained 36 games underwater when the night was over (funny how the math works), but there was at least the drama of Joe Johnson, Brooklyn’s veteran sharpshooter, drilling a 3-pointer as time ran out to boost his club past Denver, 105-104.
That outcome might not have quickened Horry’s pulse the way it does when he polishes his seven NBA championship rings, but it did link him in another chapter of All-Ball’s Horry Scale. For those unfamiliar with the tradition, the Horry Scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation, importance and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, whom our own Fran Blinebury refers to as “the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.”
We’ve already made clear this was a pretty humdrum matchup between teams stuck in standings mud, though the Nuggets remain a cut above the dismal Nets. So we’ll focus on the remaining categories:
DIFFICULTY: The clock was not Joe Johnson’s friend, and neither was his location on the floor. Only 1.3 seconds remained when teammate Merkel Brown inbounded the ball. Johnson had broke to the top from down in the paint, his defender, Denver’s Danilo Gallinari, trailing a step or so behind. Johnson took the pass, had time for a quick rhythm dribble and one step to his left, then launched from 27 feet. The ball banged in off the glass, a nice touch but hardly flukey. Johnson is a professional gunner, after all, and has hit similar shots hundreds of times, if not always as buzzer-beaters.
GAME SITUATION: There had been some drama here late in an otherwise lackluster game. Brook Lopez‘s work under the rim had tied it 102-102 with more than a minute left, and then Denver missed two long jumpers while Brooklyn had only a turnover (nice steal by Nuggets guard Gary Harris) to show for most of the final minute. A 50-50 ball had forced a jump between Kenneth Faried and Lopez that the Nuggets won. Then, with 4.7 seconds left, Denver inbounded to Faried, who bolted toward the basket and launched a running jumper from about six feet. That had the Nuggets up 104-102 with first 0.9 seconds left, adjusted via replay to 1.3.
CELEBRATION: Johnson looked happy, a nice in-the-moment reaction to what generally has been a bummer season for the seven-time All-Star. He is shooting just 40 percent, is scoring at his lowest rate (12.4 points per 36 minutes) since his 2001-02 rookie season and has bandied about the “buyout” word as a way to exit the Nets gracefully while preserving what’s left on his $24.9 million salary for this season. There was an announced crowd of 13,043 on hand at Barclays Center to witness Johnson’s bank shot. And yes, that was Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov caught by the cameras, in a luxury suite high above the court, high-fiving his guests.
GRADE: The shot was sweet in a season short on highlights for Brooklyn, but the blah backdrop – two teams headed nowhere, unrepresented in the All-Star Game next Sunday in Toronto – was too much to lift this one beyond two Horrys.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Earlier today we checked in with Kevin Durant, who had the opportunity yesterday to photograph the Super Bowl. Today at Thunder practice, Durant was asked about the experience, and while he explained how much he enjoyed it, Russell Westbrook strolled up behind him and couldn’t resist the chance to mess with KD…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Being a photographer during a sports event is way harder than it looks. I know, because I tried it a few years ago, and you can see the results of my effort by clicking here. My first attempt at photographing an NBA game was during a Blazers/Nets game. For Kevin Durant? His first attempt was during Super Bowl 50, last night in Santa Clara, California. That’s right, with the Thunder still in the Bay Area after facing the Warriors on Saturday night, KD got himself a media credential and sat on the field to shoot the big game for The Player’s Tribune. Nice work!
Who else is excited to see KD picture?
I'm actually excited to see @KDTrey5 pictures tomorrow man… I know that was a dope experience
All Ball Nerve Center — Well, it’s been a weird season for the Orlando Magic. It actually began, coincidently, when they extended on offer sheet to free agent Paul Millsap, who decided to stay with the Hawks instead. OK, fine: Orlando decided to continue with the youth movement, with mixed results. And so the Magic had lost 15 of 17 games leading into their Super Bowl matinee with Millsap and the Hawks, who of course are headed in the opposite direction. In the last few days, with trade rumors fluttering about, Magic center Nikola Vucevic implored the Magic to stay the course of their current rebuild, saying: “There’s no reason to think we need to change anything. We have to find a way within each other to get back to what we were doing early in the year.” With that, Vucevic chose the right time to make a statement, with a buzzer-beater against the Hawks which, of course, automatically made him a candidate for the Horry Scale, which measures the quality of buzzer beaters.
DIFFICULTY: This was pretty dicey. Vooch was set up nicely with 2.2 seconds left on an inbounds pass by Elfrid Payton, who was dazzling for the Magic in the fourth quarter, generating much of their offense almost by himself with passes or shots. Al Horford was tight on Vooch, who dribbled once and let it fly with a turnaround (jumping off the wrong leg) from about 20 feet. Can’t blame Horford’s D.
GAME SITUATION: The Magic blew a 14-point lead and went scoreless for almost four minutes, one reason why they’re on the outside looking in with regard to the playoff picture. Defense has been a big issue with this team; they surrendered 107 or more points in eight straight games. They’re a young team and did what young teams do, let leads escape them. But in the final seconds with the score tied, Evan Fournier, one of the symbols of the Magic’s decent start to the season, grabbed a loose ball which triggered a timeout, which in turn triggered Vooch’s big shot.
CELEBRATION: Well, Vucevic had the good sense to hit the game-winner from in front of the Magic bench. One of the first guys to hug him was Magic assistant coach Mario Elie. You might remember his Kiss Of Death shot for the Rockets against the Suns in 1995. Oh yeah, a classic.
GRADE: The shot did plenty to lift the Magic out of their doldrums, if only temporary. But as epic shots go, meh. The Horry Scale is unforgiving, just like the player it’s named after. Let’s give it 2 Horrys.
Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks and Myles Turner of the Pacers will alternate on a weekly diary for NBA.com covering life as a rookie, from challenges and success on the court to adjusting to their new world off. This week: Porzingis discusses preparing for his first All-Star weekend, to play for the World team against the United States roster in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge with the best rookies and second-year players on Friday night in Toronto.
I wasn’t too surprised when I was told I had been picked. But it was a goal. I wanted to be in the rookie game. I was already talking about it last season, when I was still in Spain. During this same time, I was talking with my agent and my family that “Hopefully next year or whenever. I want to be there.” So it was a good feeling to make it. It was nice to find out that I was in the game, and I’ll have my parents and two of my older brothers with me.
I would rather play in the game than have the time off during All-Star break. During the season the only thing I focus on is basketball. If you can have a few days off, that’s fine. If not, you keep working. Playing at All-Star weekend was something that I wanted to do and if that’s how it is then I’m not going to get any days off.
I’ve been talking to a few of my teammates and the people who work with the team about what to expect, asking how it’s going to be. Actually you’ve got to do a lot of extra stuff, a lot of media. They’re preparing me for everything that’s coming. They’re mostly telling me that it’s not just one game and that’s it. There’s a lot of stuff going on before. Everybody’s giving me advice.
I’m looking forward to going out there with all the rookies and kind of reuniting with all of them from the rookie transition program before the season. It will be fun. I met all those guys and I stayed in touch with a lot of those guys, so it will be fun to play against them again and have fun out there.
I’m not really trying to meet somebody in particular apart from the game. But it will be nice to see all those famous people out there. Probably not for our game, but more for the big All-Star game. Maybe I’ll get to meet some rappers maybe or other people. I’m not sure yet if I’ll even go to the other events. I might. We’ll see if I stay that long in Toronto.
I’m sure I will be thinking when I’m there about playing in the All-Star game one day. That’s one of my goals, that I want to be there. I want to be an All-Star. Right now I’m really focusing on what’s going on now and not looking two, three, four or five years in front of me. But in the long term, I obviously want to be there. I want to be part of the big event.
That’s motivation for me, how hard you’ve got to work to be there and to make it. That’s one of the rewards you get. To be one of those 24 guys that are in the All-Star game, I think that’s a dream for everybody. But I don’t want to get away from the things that are happening now. I really want to focus on what’s going on now. That opportunity might come, but I’ve just really got to focus on the day-to-day and getting better.
Every event like this is something that stays in your memory. It’s something that you achieved in your first year in the NBA. You’re able to play in the rookie game. That’s a nice thing to remember going forward and looking back 20 years from now and remembering all those good times – my first year, how I got adjusted, how I got picked for the rookie game. Those are good memories. Nothing will be able to replace that.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Imagine that. A whole lot of disconnectedness of brains to bodies and David Blatt wasn’t even in the building.
Sure, Isaiah Thomas made the pass to the open man and Avery Bradley coolly buried the clutch 3-pointer out of the left corner. But you have have to hand it to the Cavaliers for the way they handed the game to Boston.
The Cavs were up by five with 18 seconds left in the game before Celtics forward Jae Crowder made a 3-pointer – his only basket – and Evan Turner scored on a layup while being fouled by J.R. Smith with four seconds to play. Turner missed his free throw but the ball went out of bounds off Cleveland’s LeBron James.
That set the stage for Bradley to give the Celtics their eighth win in the last nine games — 104-103 — with his jumper in front of the Boston bench just as the horn sounded and take the starring role in Friday night’s Horry Scale.
For those unfamiliar, 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.
DIFFICULTY — When Thomas took the inbounds pass and drew the Cavs defense to him, it became a wide open look for Bradley from out of the left corner. Iman Shumpert made a half-hearted defensive lunge, but Bradley was already locked in from long range Friday night and his game-winner made him 4-for-8 from behind the arc.
GAME SITUATION — Coach Brad Stevens has his young Celtics playing hard and aggressively every night out and that’s more than anyone could have said about the Cavs in this one. They were a step and a thought slow all night. In blowing a five-point lead, the Cavs had Smith letting Turner drive the baseline and then saw big man Timofey Mozgov fumble the ensuing missed free throw out of bounds, setting up the last play and shot.
CELEBRATION — Bradley hit his shot right in front of the visiting Boston bench. He was immediately wrapped in a hug by Thomas, who delivered the pass and then danced off the floor amid the waving arms of his jubilant teammates.
GRADE — Like the Cavaliers, we’re feeling generous and giving Bradley three Horrys for turning out the lights at The Q with his winning 3-pointer.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Like we always do at this time, let’s take a look at the best instances of people getting #POSTERIZED over the last week and, at the bottom of the post, you can place your vote for a winner. And don’t forget, if you see someone get posterized, tweet it with the hashtag #POSTERIZED so we don’t miss it!
I missed last week’s #POSTERIZED poll because I was traveling, working on a cool piece for NBA TV (coming soon!). Which means more dunks than usual this week!