The Horry scale

Horry Scale: Redick Saves Clippers’ Bacon

VIDEO: J.J. Redick wins it for the Clippers with a 21-footer at the buzzer

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER  That advantage that’s supposed to favor the home team has only worked half the time for the Los Angeles Clippers since the beginning of February.

The Clippers split their 10 home games at Staples Center dating back to that day. Meanwhile, both the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, the teams the Clippers are chasing at the top of the Western Conference standings, remain perfect on their home floors.

Thursday night, though, J.J. Redick’s familiarity with al of the sweet spots on the Staples Center floor proved useful for a team sagging under the weight of a three-game losing streak. Redick’s buzzer-beating jumper from the right wing lifted the Clippers over the Portland Trail Blazers.

It was a nice way for Redick to finish off an otherwise average night for Redick and the Clippers, who improved to 23-12 this season at home.

The game-winner was Redick’s 11th shot attempt of the night; he made five and was just 1-for-3 from beyond the 3-point line. Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford kept them in the game, finishing with 25 points each as the Clippers had to rally from seven down in the fourth quarter to provide Redick the opportunity to seal the deal.

DIFFICULTY: For a player who has made a living off having a quick trigger coming off screens, Redick could have pulled this off with his eye closed. His delayed run off of DeAndre Jordan’s screen gave Redick the crease he needed with C.J. McCollum chasing him. Paul’s perfect pass gave Redick the opportunity to go into his motion as always and lift the ball over McCollum’s hand with plenty of space to spare.

GAME SITUATION: As well as Paul and Crawford played, give Doc Rivers credit for calling Redick’s number with the game on the line with just 1.1 seconds to play. Crawford tied the game at 94-94 with a deep 3-pointer and was in the corner on the final play. But he didn’t have the room he would have needed to turn and get off a clean shot. Doc played the percentages and made sure the ball went to the player with the third-most clutch points in the league this season.

CELEBRATION: Redick reacted like a man who has taken and made these shots all his life. The purest shooters always have confidence in their stroke, which would explain Redick turning to the crowd and raising his index finger to the rafters. Paul and Crawford reacted like they’d hit the shot themselves. Paul turned to the fans sitting court side while Crawford ran up the floor and pointed at the Clippers’ bench, giving the coaching staff their due for dialing up the right play.

GRADE: For a team in desperate need of some good vibrations, Redick’s shot provided that lift. It also softens the blow for Redick, whose March Madness bracket went up in smoke with his beloved Duke Blue Devils going down in the Sweet Sixteen to the Oregon Ducks just 31 miles down the road at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Let’s give this a solid three Horrys.

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Horry Scale: Mudiay finds a way

 

VIDEO: Nuggets rookie Emmanuel Mudiay throws up a prayer for the winner.

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Everyone knew this was a transitional year for the Nuggets, who added a new coach and rookie point guard, and in that sense there hasn’t been any surprises. The Nuggets are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and the rest of the season is devoted to see who stays and who goes before next season.

But their 30th win game in smashing fashion Wednesday when Emmanuel Mudiay, who’s had shooting issues for much of the season, allowed the Nuggets to escape a potentially embarrassing home loss to the Sixers. His body-twisting shot from just inside the half court stripe beat the buzzer and for a struggling team, it was just what the basketball doctors ordered.

It’s been a typical peak-valley rookie season for Mudiay. He won’t be in the running for Rookie of the Year, as some expected when the season began, and there remains some question as to whether he’s a natural point guard. But he has steadily improved; in March he’s averaging 16.6 points, 5.2 assists and just over three rebounds. He’s not as turnover prone, either. Even better, Mudiay is hitting a respectable 40 percent; in December his shooting percentage was 25 percent.

Mike Malone has shown great patience with Mudiay and is allowing the teenager to play through his mistakes, which is exactly as it should be; Denver wants Mudiay to be much more polished when it finally surrounds him with better talent. This is precisely the season to allow him to find his way through the NBA, because from a win-loss standpoint, it’s a throwaway year.

Mudiay finished with 27 points against the Sixers, and speaking of Philly, the gang still needs to win one of its remaining games to avoid tying the single-season futility mark.

DIFFICULTY: The Sixers had the ball and a one-point lead with just over three seconds left and Robert Covington was immediately fouled after receiving an inbounds pass. He missed the first free throw, though, leaving the door open. Because the Nuggets had no more timeouts, Darrell Arthur had to inbounds the ball underneath his own basket, rather than having the ball advanced. But: His half-court pass to Mudiay was money, and after dribbling off his knee and collecting himself, Mudiay shot an off-balanced jumper over TJ McConnell.

GAME SITUATION: Give the Nuggets props for not caving. Here’s what Malone said after the Nuggets’ loss in Cleveland a few days earlier: “I thought in the second half we quit. I haven’t seen that from our team for most of the year. I was very disappointed.” Well, the youngsters redeemed themselves.

CELEBRATION: Mudiay reacted as how you’d expect from a teenager who’ll never forget this night. He sprinted to the Denver bench and did a body-bump with Mike Miller, who thankfully didn’t hurt himself on that jump. Then Mudiay absorbed some playful punches to the gut by Gary Harris, another youngster who’s having a season of solid growth. It was good to see the Nuggets having fun.

GRADE: No disrespect to Mudiay and the biggest shot of his professional life, but let’s put this in perspective here. Nothing special was on the line. The Nuggets are playing out the string, and this shot came against the Sixers. Let’s give it two Horrys.

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Horry Scale: Hayward saves best for last


VIDEO: Gordon Hayward hits the fadeaway to cap off thrilling win

ALL BALL NERVE CENTERGordon Hayward delivered a reminder of the old philosophy that it doesn’t matter what you do early in a game as long as you deliver late.

The Jazz forward struggled to find a rhythm and the range on his shots all night long Tuesday at American Airlines Center in Dallas.  They came up long and short, bounced off the rim and clanked off the backboard.

Then teammate Rodney Hood dropped in the clutch 3-pointer at the end of regulation and Hayward had a fresh chance to start all over again in overtime.

And he jumped on it.

After shooting just 5-for-17 from the field in the first four quarters, Hayward couldn’t miss in OT.  He took three jumpers and made them all, including the pretty step-back, 20-footer from the baseline that beat the horn to give the Jazz their 121-119 win in overtime.

The shot gave the Jazz their seventh consecutive win and eighth in the last nine games, enabling Utah to jump ahead of Houston into the No. 7 slot in the Western Conference playoff race.

With big men Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors healthy and back in the lineup, it’s looking like the Jazz are ready to end their four-year playoff drought.

Remember, 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, named for 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 — Once Hayward rubbed off would-be defender Raymond Felton by coming through the lane to take Joe Ingles’ inbounds pass, he kept on circling to the left baseline, then rose up to get off a gorgeous step-back jumper over the outstretched arm of too-late 6-11 Zaza Pachulia that buried into the bottom of the net as the horn sounded.

GAME SITUATION —There’s always less pressure when the score is tied.  But considering how much difficulty Hayward had finding the basket for most of the night, it was impressive the way he took over in overtime and stroked the game-winning shot with such confidence right in from of his teammates on the visitors’ bench.

CELEBRATION — Hayward didn’t have far to go to get his pats on the back since his fallaway motion practically took him into the arms of his happy teammates.  First a hug from Trey Lyles, then Chris Johnson and Hood and as the Jazz made their way toward the locker room.

GRADE — Pachulia definitely gave Hayward just enough of an opening to get the shot off, but it wasn’t a wide open, size-it-up.  For a guy who struggled all night with his shot, it was a redemptive thing of beauty.  We’ve giving it two Horrys.

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Horry Scale: Johnson’s Dagger Wins It For Nets


VIDEO: Joe Johnson banks it in from beyond the arc as the buzzer sounds

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.

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Horry Scale: Vucevic’s fallaway lifts Magic over Hawks



VIDEO: Nikola Vucevic hits 18-footer at the buzzer

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.

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Horry Scale: Celtics’ Bradley nails winning 3

VIDEO: Celtics offense set up Avery Bradley for game-winner.

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.

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Horry Scale: D-Will shoots down Kings


VIDEO: Deron Williams nails a corner three to give the Mavericks a 117-116 overtime win over the Kings

Deron Williams is really back now.

Back to playing major minutes, back in the Dallas starting lineup and back to celebrating, all thanks to the 3-pointer at the buzzer of the second overtime that gave the Mavericks a 117-116 victory over the Kings on Tuesday night.

Williams had officially returned two games before after missing four consecutive outings with a strained left hamstring. But those two were for 20 minutes against the Heat and 21 against the Pelicans, and in a reserve role.

He went back into the opening lineup Tuesday, then played 43 minutes and hit 10 of 18 shots, including three of six behind the arc. And then he capped the night off in style.

DIFFICULTY

D-Will had an open look, but only after a lot of work.

He caught the inbounds pass from Devin Harris while on the move and facing the Kings bench, with his back to the basket.  Williams turned, gave a pump fake that sent Rudy Gay flying past, put his right foot into two-point territory, and pulled it back behind the line, the difference between the win and a third overtime.

Only after all that did Williams step into the hero role. The shot itself wasn’t terribly difficult. Getting there, though, was a challenge.

GAME SITUATION

The Mavericks trailed by as many as seven points in the second overtime before rallying. The Kings did their part when Darren Collison, a former Dallas point guard, air balled a 15-footer with about two seconds remaining, causing a 24-second violation with 2.3 seconds remaining and giving the current Dallas point guard the chance he would need.

The result was a 22nd consecutive loss for the Kings in Dallas.

IMPORTANCE

Anything that keeps the encouraging start going in Dallas is important. It wasn’t against a top opponent — the Kings are tracking to the lottery and were playing the second night of a back-to-back — and it wasn’t as part of a stretch drive to keep a playoff spot. But another resilient moment in a season when many expected the Mavericks to fall off the radar is meaningful.

CELEBRATION

Try telling the Mavs the game wasn’t against a top opponent or that it wasn’t late in the season. They partied like it was April against the Warriors.

Williams, falling backward after the release, crashed into Kings coach George Karl, toppling Karl as Williams hit the floor on his back. his arms help up in celebration. The Mavericks on the court piled on top of Williams, and then the Mavericks charging from the bench at the other end did the same.

GRADE

It would have been a good night for Williams anyway. To have that kind of finish, taking out the Kings in general and literally taking out Karl, to create that kind of scrum on the court could end up being a season highlight for the Mavs. Williams had to work hard for the moment. He didn’t waste it. Three Horrys.

 

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Horry Scale: Raptors’ Joseph drains winning three-pointer

 

VIDEO: Cory Joseph nails game-winning three-pointer for Raptors in Washington.

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER —  Sometimes all it takes is one game, one play, one shot to sum up an entire season.  In this case, it told the tale of both the Raptors and Wizards, who are going in vastly different directions.

There was Cory Joseph burying a 3-pointer as the horn sounded to give the Raptors a fourth straight victory and a starring role as the clutch performer in Saturday night’s edition of the Horry Scale.

There was John Wall clanking a pair of free throws with 3.8 seconds left that set up the hero spot for Joseph and ultimately sent the under performing Wizards to their fourth straight defeat.  Can we start the Nick Anderson Scale in honor of gagging from the foul line?

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

Joseph may have come into the game shooting just 25 percent (4-for-16) from behind the arc on the season.  But he surely has not had a more wide open look at a trey, maybe in his entire career.  With the Washington defense looking as confused and ineffective as members of Congress, Joseph practically had time to order out for a pizza before he loaded up, let fly and found the bottom of the net.

GAME SITUATION

Wall was already 6-for-25 from the field when he stepped up to the free throw line for the two shots that could have given the Wizards a three-point lead.  But a season in which he’s looked like anything but the franchise player to take Washington to the next level sank to new depths when he missed both free throws.  You just knew what was going to happen next.  With 3.0 seconds left, DeMarre Carroll shoveled the inbounds pass to DeMar DeRozan, who turned left around the corner and drove the baseline. That’s when Ramon Sessions was sucked in badly, collapsing to the lane and leaving Joseph all alone in the left corner.  DeRozan spotted him, made the easy feed and the Raptors won 84-82.

CELEBRATION

Joseph let fly, knew it was good and ran to midcourt, where he was greeted by DeRozan and a chest-bumping Kyle Lowry, then the rest of the Raptors bench.  It was a Toronto happy dance for four in a row.

GRADE

We give Joseph credit for stepping up with the clock running down and his team trailing by a point.  But as mentioned, he couldn’t have a more uncontested shot if he were shooting for stuffed teddy bears on a carnival midway.  We’re giving it two Horrys.  And giving Wall two Nick the Bricks.

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The Horry Scale: Vucevic Fires Off 2015-16 Season’s First For Magic

VIDEO: Vucevic wins it for Magic

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.

DIFFICULTY

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.

GAME SITUATION

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.

IMPORTANCE

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.

CELEBRATION

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.

GRADE

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.

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Horry Scale: LeBron delivers in Chicago


VIDEO: LeBron nails Taco Bell Buzzer Beater

It was reminiscent of the finish to Game 2 of the 2009 conference finals. The Cavs were in a desperate situation, in danger of facing a two-game deficit.

That game was in Cleveland, the Cavs were down two points, and there was 1.0 seconds on the clock. But the results, the shots were very similar.

LeBron James hit his third game-winning buzzer beater in the playoffs on Sunday, lifting the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 86-84 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 4 of the conference semifinals.

The Cavs passed their first big test of the second LeBron era. They were down 2-1 in the series. They were down 11 points late in the third quarter. Kyrie Irving was dealing with a foot injury and James himself turned his ankle midway through the third.

But they came back with some big shots from J.R. Smith and strong defense in the final period. And James provided the finishing touches on Cleveland’s biggest win of the season.

DIFFICULTY

A little nudge from James knocked Jimmy Butler off-balance, and he wasn’t able to close fast enough. James’ momentum was taking him toward the Bulls’ bench, but the space Butler provided (and the lack of a second defender) allowed him to square his shoulders and keep his balance, with his toes on the 3-point line. Of the three buzzer beaters we’ve seen in the last three days, it was the easiest shot.

GAME SITUATION

After coming back from 11 down, the Cavs blew a five-point lead in less than 30 seconds, thanks in part to James’ eighth turnover of the afternoon, an offensive foul with 14.3 seconds left.

Still, if the shot misses, they have another chance to redeem themselves in overtime.

IMPORTANCE

The playoffs appear to be wide open, especially in the Eastern Conference. If the Cavs lose this game, they’re in a situation – down 3-1 – that few teams have come back from.

But the win gives them back home-court advantage. Since Jan. 19, they’re 23-2 in Cleveland, where they will play Game 5 and 7 (if necessary).

CELEBRATION

A clumsy mob that spilled onto the scorer’s table.

GRADE

It’s the playoffs. It’s two teams that have a good shot of reaching The Finals if they get through this series. It was a high-leverage game. Five Horrys.

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