The Horry scale

Horry Scale: Bayless keeps Bucks alive


VIDEO: Bucks’ guard Jerryd Bayless’ layup keeps Milwaukee’s season alive.

Jerryd Bayless headed to the sideline as if he hit a shot to end the first quarter, of a game in January, against a lottery team. He basically calmly walked off.

But that smile. It was bigger than the arena, a louder statement than the home crowd, more of a barometer of the new mood among the Bucks than the updated playoff standings. That smile, the one a lot of people in Wisconsin now have.

Jared Dudley made the great pass, Bayless made the twisting layup at the buzzer, and the Bucks had finally pushed through against the Bulls, going from the double-overtime loss on Thursday and the 0-3 deficit in the best-of-seven series to the 92-90 victory Saturday in Milwaukee.

DIFFICULTY

For Bayless? Not much. He had to catch the ball going away from the basket and turn slightly to flip the ball in with his right hand while taking a slight hit from defender Derrick Rose.

The pass was the hard part. Throwing the ball in from the left sideline, Dudley completed a perfect pass, through Joakim Noah applying pressure on Dudley and through Rose staying close to Bayless. The pass could not have been better.

GAME SITUATION

Rose’s eighth turnover of the day — a day he probably never forgets — gave the Bucks the ball with 1.3 seconds remaining in a 90-90 game. Coach Jason Kidd called one timeout, a full. Then another, a 20.

And the series situation. Milwaukee had already lost in overtime in the series, two days before, and likely would have had another extra period if it didn’t convert on this last try. Lose this one as well and the season’s over.

IMPORTANCE

C’mon.

CELEBRATION

It was a great scene. Bayless may have been calm as he walked to the sideline, but once there, he was mobbed by teammates as the building went wild, at least the people who hadn’t made the drive from Chicago to watch. Even the scene looked good from overhead, with many Bucks fans waving the white T-shirts left on the seats before the game.

GRADE

Five Horrys, and only because that’s the limit. A basket to win a playoff game, against a neighborhood rival, with the possibility of elimination looming — that easily deserves the max.

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Horry Scale: Smart lifts Celtics


VIDEO:  Smart grabs a falling Thomas pass to score game-winning basket in critical victory.

On the road? Against a good team? On a basket by Marcus Smart? All on the second night of a back-to-back?

Of all the heroes in all the situations in all the places, it would have taken a lot of searching to find a more improbable outcome than Celtics 117, Raptors 116 in overtime Saturday night in Toronto, a huge development in Boston’s attempt to keep its grip on the final playoff spot as the least bad team among the Eastern Conference hopefuls for No. 8.

Smart made six of nine attempts on the night, including the buzzer-beating layup, but after shooting 35.4 percent in February and 32.9 percent in March. His rookie season was ending badly, even as Boston continued to give him big minutes. And then this.

DIFFICULTY

It was harder than it should have been. Smart was open under the basket, on the right side of the lane, thanks to Isaiah Thomas drawing the defense as he blew down the left side, but the dish-off was a little high. Smart grabbed it with his right hand, with no Raptor closer than a couple steps. Then he made an awkward plant to go up. At least the release was clean.

GAME SITUATION

The Raptors led 116-115 on a Lou Williams three-pointer with four seconds left. The Celtics called timeout and advanced the ball to halfcourt. Thomas was near the free throw line at the other end when the referee gave the ball to Evan Turner on the sideline. Advantage: Celtics.

Thomas, fast enough without a head start, had built to lift-off speed by the time he took the pass from Turner about 40 feet from the basket, then went through the Toronto defense. He created the opportunity that Smart finished.

IMPORTANCE

Large. Everything was a challenge except for the distance of the winning shot – the schedule, the location, the opponent. There has to be a special level of gratification. The importance in the standings is obvious. If the Celtics make the playoffs, this will be one of the nights that made it happen.

CELEBRATION

Eh. Several Celtics charged off the bench to embrace Smart. He got some hugs and smacks on top of his head, but there was no wild party.

GRADE

The Celtics get marked down only because the win came on a wide-open layup, without a higher degree of difficulty beyond catching the ball. Everything else was big, though, from the situation and the importance to Thomas’ work. Three Horrys.

 

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Horry scale: Middleton ends Bucks’ skid


VIDEO: Middleton’s 3-pointer at buzzer seals Bucks’ comeback victory

by Scott Howard-Cooper

Just being in the game was accomplishment enough for the Bucks. Just getting the final shot was improbable enough for Khris Middleton.

But then for Milwaukee to come from 16 points down with 9:53 remaining Tuesday night and from 12 behind with five minutes left to beat the Heat 89-88? For Middleton to go from missing six of seven shots behind the arc and 12 of 16 overall to the hero with the three-pointer at the buzzer? The finish was nothing short of unreal.

Given the jerking change of direction in the game, the potential long-term implications in the standings, the unlikely star of the night and the emotional value for a team that would treasure so much as an uneventful win, it would be hard to find many bigger March moments anywhere in the league.

DIFFICULTY

It had that too. Middleton was standing at the arc, a few feet left of straightaway, so he was able to have his feet set. What he wasn’t able to get was an easy look. He had to hurry to beat the clock. He had a defender charging at him, right arm extended for the block.

The only easy part — of the entire possession, actually — was the decision to shoot. With the game an instant away from ending in a Miami victory, Middleton had no choice. The result was near-perfect. The ball barely touched back rim before going down without a fight.

GAME SITUATION

It took Milwaukee outscoring Miami 21-9 in the fourth quarter just to get the Bucks within 88-86 with a final chance off a jump ball with 9.8 seconds remaining at the free-throw line close to the basket where the Heat were defending. It had taken a lot of uphill climbing just to get in position to complete the comeback. And then it took more.

Jerryd Bayless, a a 6-3 guard, won the tip against 6-10 Michael Beasley, knocking the ball backward to Middleton. Bayless’ drove down the right side of the lane and missed a layup amid a crowd of Heat defenders with about five seconds left. Milwaukee’s Zaza Pachulia saved the ball as it was going over the baseline, twisting his body back toward the court and flinging a two-hand pass in the direction of the top of the key. Middleton controlled the ball and fired from 24 feet out with about five-tenths of a seconds to go.

IMPORTANCE

The Bucks were on a six-game losing streak and staring straight at No. 7. They were sinking in the Eastern Conference standings, to where they were beginning to get a decent view of the lottery, and Miami was one of the teams putting pressure on them from behind. A lot of the good of 2014-15 was unraveling.

To say Tuesday night was an important win, then, doesn’t begin to cover it. Huge is more like it. If the shot turns out to be the launching pad to a Milwaukee recovery and the Bucks find solid footing again to reach the playoffs, it becomes their regular-season highlight.

CELEBRATION

A finish like that deserved a reaction like that. Middleton turned toward the other basket and ran into the arms of teammates who had come off the bench. The Bucks who had been near the other end rushed down to join the party. Middleton quickly disappeared under the madness of a gang tackle near one of the sidelines, at the feet of fans. Fun had broken out again in Milwaukee.

GRADE

Crazy finish, tough shot, playoff implications, bedlam on the court in all the right ways — the Bucks delivered everything. It’s still only March and not the very end of the regular season, but skidding Milwaukee needed that in a big way. Four Horrys.

 

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Horry Scale: Tyler Zeller Lifts Celtics


VIDEO: Zeller takes the inbounds pass, pivots underneath and gets the layup to fall

Just try overlooking Jazz at Celtics now. Lottery team vs. lottery team, the season down to the final full month of the regular season, a matchup that easily could have blended into the background, and then this.

Some night for the Boston point guards. Newly acquired Isaiah Thomas, named the Eastern Conference player of the week two days before, had a game-high 21 points, and then Marcus Smart delivered the last of his three assists with a perfect pass in a difficult situation — from out of bounds, finding his man in a seam of the Utah defense — that Tyler Zeller turned into the winning basket at the buzzer.

Not merely the highlight of the night, it will undoubtedly become one of Smart’s best passes of the entire season.

DIFFICULTY

Smart had the hard part. Inbounding the ball at the three-point line extended to the right of the basket, with 1.7 seconds remaining, and taking advantage when 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert gave Smart room, even though the Jazz put Gobert on him to supposedly make life difficult for Smart, the Celtics rookie delivered a two-hand overhead pass almost directly under the basket after Zeller got behind defender Rodney Hood. Zeller had to corkscrew to get free as Gordon Hayward and Gobert converged to help, increasing the degree of difficulty beyond the typical banking lay-in.

GAME SITUATION

Utah led 84-83 after Hayward’s jumper with 1.7 seconds to go. Boston called timeout, needing a response not only to the late Jazz basket but to 31-point loss at Cleveland the night before. The Celtics had already lost an eight-point lead with 2 1/2 minutes remaining. They were on the verge of losing the game, too, when coach Brad Stevens drew up the play in the huddle. Smart and Zeller could not have executed it any better.

IMPORTANCE

Pride. That’s it. Otherwise, it was a team winning to improve to 23-35 and a team losing to drop to 24-35. It was a fun moment for the Celtics, not an important one.

CELEBRATION

It matched the importance. Some of the Celtics charged from the bench, at the same end as the winning basket, to party with Zeller, but there was no mob scene. The best part may have been Stevens embracing Hayward, the former Butler coach with his former Butler star player, at midcourt. The Boston faithful who haven’t had much to cheer this season gave an appreciative loud response.

GRADE

Points off because of the lack of importance. But the pass was special and Zeller had to work to get the shot off with about two-tenths of a second remaining. Three Horrys.

 

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Horry Scale: Cousins adds to Suns’ buzzer-beater misery

VIDEO: DeMarcus Cousins bounces in a buzzer-beater

The Phoenix Suns can’t catch a break. They’re fighting with the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder, teams that feature two of the best players in the world, for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. And they keep getting their hearts broken.

DeMarcus Cousins did the damage on Sunday, beating Phoenix at the buzzer with a shot that bounced off the rim five times before dropping through the net, another painful way to lose for a team that lost on a Blake Griffin jumper that somehow bounced in off the bottom of the rim and a Khris Middleton shot that hit off the glass first.

Throw in a James Harden step-back and the Suns have lost on four buzzer-beaters this season. They’re 2-10 in games determined by three points or less or in overtime, a brutal mark when that playoff spot could come down to a game or two.

DIFFICULTY

Cousins’ shot was a leaning, contested jumper from 19 feet out. But with 2.5 seconds on the clock after the Suns had missed their own opportunity to go ahead, he had time to get Markieff Morris in the air and get himself a clear look at the basket.

GAME SITUATION

The Suns had come back from 14 down to start the fourth quarter and, behind Isaiah Thomas, had taken the lead with just over a minute to go. But Cousins tied it back up quickly and Phoenix went away from Thomas on their final two possessions, both of which came up empty.

The score was still tied and Cousins, for once, wasn’t in foul trouble. So they still had a good chance to win in overtime had he not made the shot.

IMPORTANCE

The win doesn’t do much for the Kings, but the loss was huge for Phoenix — and New Orleans and Oklahoma City. The Suns need every win they can get, and if they fall short of the playoffs with 45-plus wins for a second straight year, we’ll remember this game, as well as the others they lost in similar fashion.

 CELEBRATION

It was delayed as Cousins and his teammates had to wait for the ball to bounce around the rim for a while. A fist pump and some jawing at no one in particular.

GRADE

The game was tied, the play design wasn’t all that special, and Cousins needed a friendly bounce (or five) to get the Taco Bell. One Horry.

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Horry Scale: Brow Beater lifts Pelicans

VIDEO: Anthony Davis shocks the Thunder with a buzzer-beating 3

Anthony Davis has done it all for the Pelicans in this very impressive breakout season … well, almost everything, until Friday night. Scoring, rebounds, blocked shots, steals, assists? The only thing missing from his resume in 2014-15 was a buzzer-beater, and that was signed, sealed and delivered in the nick of time to bail out the Pelicans and, more importantly, keep the Thunder at bay in the race for one of the final playoff spots in the West.

Yes, it was only fitting that his first buzzer-beater happened in a big moment and a big game. The Pelicans came to OKC with a one-game lead over the Thunder for ninth place, and this was designated, at least by folks in OKC, as the game in which the Thunder would make their move in the standings. They used much of the last two months digging out of a tough start this season caused mainly by injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. With the season nearly two-thirds over, time is of the essence, not only for OKC but New Orleans, since both are sitting on the playoff bubble.

Something had to give … and did with no time left on the clock.

DIFFICULTY

Davis isn’t the first player you’d choose to shoot the ball from 3-point range. Actually, what was he doing so far away from the basket, with the score tied? A more reasonable spot for Davis would be near the basket for a tip-in off the inbounds pass. Oh, well. He was checked closely by Durant, but wiggled free and took the pass from Tyreke Evans with 1.2 seconds left. Davis was moving to his left from the top of the key, then leaped in the air, hanging about a split-second longer than Durant. He double-clutched just to make sure and created just enough air space to release a shot beyond the reach of Durant. Not many big man are athletic enough to pull off the mid-air gymnastics that Davis did. The game-winner was Davis’ first made 3-pointer since March of last season and only his third career make in 24 tries. You know what’ll happen this March? Davis turns 22.

GAME SITUATION

The Pelicans nearly choked this game away. Evans missed a pair of free throws on New Orleans’ next to last possession that could’ve iced the game. And then, up three points, Quincy Pondexter ran out to guard Westbrook beyond the three-point stripe, which is really a defensive sin. Pondexter couldn’t stop his momentum and made contact with Westbrook, who released the shot quickly, on the way down. Westbrook had a monster night with a career-high 48 points with 9 rebounds and 11 assists (after scoring 45 points against these same Pelicans his previous game), and calmly hit all three free throws to tie the game with 1.2 ticks left.

IMPORTANCE

Davis finished with 41 points and 10 rebounds in the 116-113 win and, as we already mentioned, the Pelicans are in a fight with OKC and the Suns for the eighth spot, which Phoenix is clinging to at the moment. OKC and the Pelicans met two nights earlier in New Orleans and Westbrook torched the home team in the win. And so: Westbrook scored a combined 93 points in back-to-back games against the Pelicans and OKC only managed a split. The Pelicans are on their best roll of the season, losing only twice since Jan. 19. In their next 12 games, they’ll only see teams with winning records three times. With a soft schedule, it’s the best time for New Orleans to make a strong move. The Pelicans also now hold a 3-1 head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder, who have have lost five of their last eight and no doubt hear the clock ticking.

CELEBRATION

Davis was mobbed by his teammates, with two potential goats, Evans and Pondexter, leading the charge. Seriously, had that shot missed, it would’ve been a long flight out of OKC for two players who only needed to do the right thing to avoid the last second drama.

GRADE

This shot wasn’t exactly heavy on theatrics, but it did involve Davis, and it was a rare three-pointer from him, and the game carried a fair amount of importance for February. Therefore, the Brow Beater was better than most. We’ll give it four Horrys.

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Horry Scale: The Beard Does It For The First Time!

VIDEO: James Harden dooms the Suns with a step-back jumper

Someone, P.J. Tucker is a good place to start, in that Phoenix Suns locker room has some explaining to do. Did they not read the scouting report? Don’t they know how much James Harden loves to play basketball in the Phoenix area? The Southern California native did paint the town (well, Tempe) for two years as an Arizona State Sun Devil.

So it’s only fitting that his first buzzer-beater (at least in the NBA) came on somewhat familiar turf. And after the way the Golden State Warriors pushed them around in their previous game, Harden’s Houston Rockets couldn’t afford another humbling defeat. Giving the NBA’s leading scorer 16 seconds to work is pretty unfair, if you ask me. That’s more than enough time for Harden to figure out how to take advantage of any elite defender and find a good shot.

If anyone was going to rescue the Rockets in the state of Arizona with a shot at the buzzer … someone find that darn scouting report.

DIFFICULTY

Kevin McHale didn’t waste any time on the white board in the huddle. This was Clutch Bucket 101. “Give the ball to James and everyone else get the heck out of the way.” Without an immediate double-team of Harden that would have forced him to give the ball and make anyone but the best scorer in the league this season beat you, the Suns were baked the moment the ball was thrown in bounds. Again, Clutch Bucket 101!

GAME SITUATION

The Rockets played the final three quarters without Dwight Howard, who left early with a sprained ankle. So that meant Harden spent his entire night going bananas on the Suns. He finished with 33 points, 10 assists and six rebounds and was his usual wicked self from the free-throw line (14-for-17). And somehow the Rockets still needed his heroics to outlast the Suns after leading by 16 points midway through the fourth quarter. The Suns are 24-2 this season when leading at halftime, so the final outcome should not have been in any doubt.

IMPORTANCE

The Rockets need to do everything they can to keep pace with the other teams at the top of the Western Conference standings, so this was a huge game the same way every game they play the remainder of the regular season will be for a team jockeying for playoff position. The Suns are trying to hold off the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder for that eighth and final playoff slot in the West, making each and every lost opportunity a potential dagger down the road.

CELEBRATION

Harden’s hands down, head-to-the-sky individual celebration was done the right way. Act like you’ve been there before (even if, technically, you have not during your NBA career). The Rockets bench showed their leader the appropriate love, but would rather it not be necessary the next time they are up 16 midway through the fourth quarter.

GRADE

I’m an old school enthusiast in just about every way imaginable. That’s why the iso-NBA leading scorer routine worked for me. Someone better read the scouting report next time, though. We’ll give it three Horrys.

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Horry Scale: Bucks finally get a beater


VIDEO: Khris Middleton gets the friendly roll to drop Suns

The Bucks are off to a better-than-expected start to this season, and just imagine if they weren’t on the wrong side of a pair of buzzer beaters. In the season opener, the Hornets’ Kemba Walker made not one, but two beaters — at the end of regulation for the tie and in OT for the win — and then Monta Ellis dropped a stunner a few weeks ago.

Well, the last shot finally belonged to Khris Middleton and Milwaukee in a thrilling win Tuesday in Phoenix, when the teams combined to score eight points in the final dizzying 23 seconds. Markieff Morris (25 points in a terrific game) made a layup, followed by a Brandon Knight jumper, followed by a Morris jumper from the free throw line with four seconds left, setting up the dramatics.

This was another solid showing by the Bucks who, after losing five out of six, beat the Clippers and now are above .500 after the first of a four-game Western swing.

DIFFICULTY

The Bucks did the old give-and-go, with Middletown inbounding the ball to Jared Dudley, then getting it back. Middleton had a rather decent look at the rim from 28 feet and, with precious seconds ticking, took the open 3. The ball skidded off the rim, then kissed off the backboard before falling in at the buzzer. It wasn’t the prettiest, but when did style points ever gout when the game’s on the line?

GAME SITUATION

The Bucks and Suns played a fairly tight second half and the basket-swapping in the game’s final half-minute was fun to watch. Interestingly, the Suns looked for Morris, whose offensive game is growing steadily, and he responded. Even more interesting: Phoenix was ready to inbounds the ball with 4 seconds left but quickly called timeout when the Suns’ defense proved to be alert. Jason Kidd drew up a completely different play and instead of using Knight as the inbounds passer, switched to Middleton.

IMPORTANCE

The Bucks are testing the always dangerous West Coast waters and so far, so good for a team that’s trying to see where it stands and how much further it needs to go. The only blight on the victory over the Suns was a knee injury to rookie Jabari Parker, who had to be carried off the floor. Fortunately, it was initially diagnosed as a sprain. Meanwhile, Phoenix is one of those West teams that sure wishes it played in the East.

CELEBRATION

As you might have expected, there was joy from a Bucks’ team that had lost a pair of games to buzzer beaters this season. Middleton was mobbed at mid court by the bench and then the players sprinted off the floor while the shot was being replayed by officials. The Bucks didn’t care. They already knew the result.

GRADE

The execution by the Bucks was solid and Middleton’s shot was sure, although it did require some friendly bounces off the rim and glass. We’ll give it three Horrys.

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Horry Scale: Harris ends Hawks’ streak


VIDEO: Harris’ streak ender

Tobias Harris was already enjoying a season with obvious forward progress, to the surprise of no one who had been tracking his career progress. One of the least-known parts of the Magic rotation or not, next to Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and 2014 lottery picks Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, Harris had established himself as an early candidate for Most Improved Player.

Add Saturday night to the resumé. Harris hits the 15-footer as time expires to give Orlando a 100-99 victory over the Hawks.

DIFFICULTY

Tough shot. Not only was time running down, not only was Harris on the move while dribbling to his left, but DeMarre Carroll played good defense. It was commendable defense, actually, the way Carroll fought off a pick, fell down, got up just as Harris received the pass and stayed on Harris the entire way. And when Harris released, Carroll’s left hand was contesting the shot.

It didn’t matter. Harris was fluid and unhurried as he cleared the defense, before the buzzer sounded after the release.

GAME SITUATION

There were 15 lead changes and 10 ties. The biggest advantages were six for the Hawks and five for the Magic. This was a game that deserved to go down to the final play.

Atlanta went up 99-98 on Kyle Korver’s 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds remaining. Orlando called timeout. The Hawks put Carroll in for defense. The Magic, wanting another shooter, put Channing Frye in for Payton.

Harris had pretty much been in the entire way, playing 39 minutes while missing nine of 15 shots before the timeout. Unfazed, he worked his way from near the baseline, through Carroll’s tight defense, called for the ball on the right wing and then dribbled. He was just to the left of the free-throw line when he pulled up.

IMPORTANCE

There went Atlanta’s nine-game winning streak. Not only that, the victories had come by an average of 14 points per. Harris ending that impressive run should get headlines around the league because of what the Hawks had been doing, and also because it is another step in Orlando building confidence. These kind of nights help a lot.

CELEBRATION

The Magic got the importance. It helped that Harris made the shot on the side of the Magic bench. He basically drifted into waiting arms after the release, He was swarmed there, while the Hawks walked dejectedly off the court at the other end.

GRADE

It was a big moment all around. Long winning streak on the line, the Magic wanting to make a statement about being able to step up to the moment, Harris needing to create his shot against tough defense and then convert when the opportunity did come — that was big even for mid-December. Three Horrys.

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Horry Scale: Beal’s timely tip-in


VIDEO: Beal’s timely tip-in

A road win is a good win. It doesn’t matter if you’re in second place in the conference and your opponent is five games under .500. If you can go into someone else’s building and leave with a ‘W’, it’s a good night.

So Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards won’t be apologizing for the way they pulled out Wednesday’s victory in Orlando, coming back from five points down in the final minute, with the inexperienced Magic leaving time on the clock after an attempted game-winner when they didn’t have to.

And who should apologize for a brilliantly designed and perfectly executed game-winning buzzer-beater?

DIFFICULTY

Beal’s role in the play wasn’t all that difficult. Where the ball was placed, he just had to catch it and lay it in.

It was inbounder Andre Miller who had to loft a perfect pass over 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon. And Miller did just that.

GAME SITUATION

The Magic gave this one away. They were up five with a minute left. After Elfrid Payton stole the ball from Paul Pierce with a three-point lead and 40 seconds left, they didn’t run down the clock, and Tobias Harris got whistled for an offensive foul on a fast break.

After John Wall cut the lead to one, the Magic didn’t use much clock again. And after Victor Oladipo missed a layup, Willie Green committed one of the worst fouls you can commit, a loose-ball foul on your own end of the floor with your opponent in the bonus.

The Magic were lucky that Washington missed two of its three final-minute free throws. But when they had a chance to win the game with the shot clock off, Oladipo launched his game-winning attempt with more than three seconds left on the game clock. That left the Wizards with 0.8 after they grabbed the rebound.

IMPORTANCE 

The score was tied, so a bad pass or a blown layup wouldn’t have killed the Wizards. And since the opponent was a non-playoff team, the game didn’t have the importance of one against the Raptors or Cavs.

CELEBRATION

Beal went with the standard, jumping, sideways chest-bump. Wall, meanwhile, ran through the tunnel like the Wiz had won Game 3 of The Finals.

GRADE

The play design deserves and ‘A’. The execution too. But this was a tie game against the Magic, so there could have been much higher stakes. Three Horrys.

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