ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — He may not be as ever-present as Spike Lee is with the Knicks or Jack Nicholson in Los Angeles, but Justin Timberlake has long been a fan of the Memphis Grizzlies. It makes sense, as Timberlake is a Memphis native, and he’s publicly been an NBA fan for years now. I mean, Who can forget when he served up Kenny “The Jet” Smith at the All-Star Game years ago?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — We have yet to break out the Crossover Contest this season, but Miami Heat rookie point guard Shabazz Napier made a case for himself last night. While waiting for Chris Bosh to flash to the basket in the halfcourt offense, and momentarily faced with a Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams double-team, Napier did something remarkable.
There are actually two things to watch on this play…
First, just watch Napier, as he does what is essentially a triple crossover — right to left behind his legs, left to right behind his legs, and then right to left in front of his body, all in the course of about two seconds. Terrific dribbling by Napier.
Second, watch KG and D-Will perform a strange ballet as they negotiate with each other to stay with their defensive assignments. D-Will actually does a full 360, on purpose, because it’s probably the fastest way to get situated back in front of Napier.
And then the Heat turn the ball over. But whatever, it was a great moment. You can see the full video here, or be mesmerized by the Vine below…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The players on the Oklahoma City Thunder are not only very good at basketball, they’re apparently great at selling cars. Last year we saw several of them doing their best to get you in a new vehicle, and this year’s version of the ad has a new wrinkle: Helium.
Now, officially, I strongly discourage you from sucking helium from a balloon, because it’s probably a bad idea or something, but it’s pretty funny to hear these guys talking like Smurfs…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last season we had what felt like an epidemic of fans hitting halfcourt shots, especially in Oklahoma City. This season is still young, but maybe there’s something about the midwest, because a fan in Dallas drained a shot from halfcourt. His prize? A 70-inch television. Hope he has the HD cable package.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Yesterday’s Nuggets at Knicks game was 109-93 win for the Knicks, a result they desperately needed. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, neither team really put their best foot (or shot) forward.
Let’s start with Shaq’s favorite forward, Denver’s JaVale McGee, who is back from injury and yet to make an appearance on “Shaqtin’ A Fool” this season. That is likely to be changing soon, however, after this free throw attempt from McGee yesterday. Nice form, bad distance.
But that wasn’t even the worst airball of the day. Later in the game, Knicks forward Travis Wear grabbed a rebound and whiffed from literally right next to the rim. Somebody get Shaq on the phone…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — As we’ve chronicled in this space, Lance Stephenson has done some impressive work on the court the last two seasons, particularly when it comes to flopping. (See here and here, for example.) But his latest maneuver may be his best one yet.
In a game against the Warriors this weekend, Lance ran into a screen set by Harrison Barnes. And in what appears to be an attempt to draw a foul, but in actuality is a play for the ages, Lance Stephenson slapped himself in the face…
There was a brick fair of enormous magnitude in Oklahoma City on Sunday and it was all in Chesapeake Energy Arena. James Harden missed 12 of 17. Dwight Howard missed 10 of 14 — 19 of 27 if you count free throws. Houston’s stars weren’t the only culprits. In fact, nobody shot 50 percent from the field. Nobody.
The Rockets shot 28.7 percent from the field, undoubtedly helped to that figure by the ridiculous rim protection from the trio of Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Fourteen blocks combined, they threw six offerings from Howard. Credit the Rockets for continuing to challenge the Thunder, but their intrepidity in the paint was likely necessitated by their abysmal launching from deep (7-for-35 out there).
Despite Houston’s shooting woes, it got the 69-65 win (read that score again slowly) because OKC wasn’t much better (29.4 percent). It was a physical affair, replete with four technical fouls, a Pat Beverley sighting and more trash talk than a little bit. Win or no win, the Thunder, particularly young big man Adams, gave the Rockets a rim party to remember.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Knicks finally scored 100 points in a game this season. Unfortunately for them, Trey Burke and the Jazz weren’t quite finished.
Tonight’s Jazz/Knicks game presented two teams with similar journeys ahead of them. The Jazz have a young roster with a young coach and expectations bubbling. The Knicks have a superstar forward (Carmelo Anthony) and president (Phil Jackson) but have a way to go as they implement the triangle offense.
The Knicks entered the night having lost six straight, for a 2-7 record, and had yet to score 100 points in a game this season. The Jazz had a similarly sub-par record, coming in at 3-6, and in the midst of a five-game road trip. All of which culminated in tonight’s big finish by Burke.
Before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain why we’re here: 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 last season, 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 inbound play was terrific. Basically, everything matters.
Let’s get to the game-winner…
With 2.3 seconds left on the clock, the Jazz didn’t have to rely on a catch-and-shoot. Two-plus seconds is enough time for at least a dribble, maybe even a pass.
But it looked as if the play wasn’t even drawn up for Burke to get the shot. Burke began in the far corner and set a screen for Gordon Hayward, who already had 33 points on the night. Hayward popped to the top of the key and looked to receive a pass. But Knicks forward Quincy Acy denied the look to Hayward, just as Burke flashed to the ball around the free throw line. Burke caught the ball, dribbled left into the corner, and fired up a fadeaway jumper over J.R. Smith, who was all over Burke and contested the shot well. But Burke cleared just enough space with a step-back move to release the jumper, and he drilled the shot as the buzzer was ringing.
Smith actually defended fine on the play — he went under three separate screens and stuck to Burke on the shot. Burke had to make a perfect play just to clear room for the shot. And Burke played it perfectly.
After squandering a last-second attempt earlier in the week, when J.R. Smith eschewed a pass to Carmelo Anthony to fire up a three, tonight the Knicks cleared out for Anthony, who banked in a three to tie the game at 100 with 2.3 left. Anthony finished with 46 points for the Knicks, who were without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Anthony was brilliant all night.
But Utah called a timeout after Anthony leveled the game and calmly came up with the play. A shoutout to Jazz coach Quin Snyder, who came up with a play that had multiple options; and a shoutout to inbound passer Joe Ingles, who calmly went to Burke after not being able to get the ball to Hayward.
It was big, for both teams. Yes, we’re still early in the season, but after losing six straight, the Knicks needed a win, especially at home. And Melo had put them on his back and carried them throughout the game.
The Jazz entered this season in rebuilding mode, and though they’re below .500, they’ve looked promising as they’ve tried to implement Snyder’s pace and space offense. Also, it’s worth noting that this is already Utah’s second appearance on the Horry Scale this season. So not only are they competing, but they’re giving themselves opportunities to win games (and taking advantage of those opportunities).
It was fortuitous that Burke popped the shot directly in front of the Utah bench. Because as soon as the shot went in, he was swarmed by his teammates. The Jazz couldn’t give an all-out celebration because they were on the road, so they didn’t get that awesome crowd reaction like they did at home against Cleveland. Still, the team huddled around Burke and let him have it (including a towel over the head) while Smith looked up in disbelief to check the replay.
Also, we can’t ignore Carmelo’s reaction. After such a big game, all he could do was grimace with the realization that better days are ahead. Hopefully sooner than later.
It was a great play, a great shot, and an important result for a team that needed a win. But being pragmatic, this was a regular season game between two teams under .500. And considering we gave Hayward’s previous Horry Scale entry rated four Horrys, I don’t feel like this one quite matches that one, particularly on the celebration matrix. So I’m giving Trey Burke’s game winner 3 Horrys.
What say you? How many Horrys would you give Trey Burke’s GWBB?
Pregame festivities at NBA games are usually wrought with fireworks, fancy on-court projection systems, player introductions or some combination thereof. How can you make that sorta thing better? Add a little dose of Hulk Hogan, of course. Such was the case last night as the Brooklyn Nets visited the Golden State Warriors as Hogan got the crowd worked up with his usual trademark flair.