ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I did not care who won Game 6 of the Portland/Houston series. I am not a fan of either team, and to me it didn’t matter which team won. I was up late on the East Coast watching the game, sure, because I love sports and I love basketball, and also because it’s my job. But was I cheering for either team? Nope, not at all.
I say all of that to give context to what happened next. When Chandler Parsons scored with 0.9 seconds remaining, I figured it meant we were headed for a Game 7 in the series. Which was fine by me, considering how great the games in that series had been. And then Damian Lillard came flying around the top of the key, caught the ball, calmly drained the game-winner, and the arena went crazy.
And I sat forward to the edge of my couch and thrust a fist into the air. Again, I didn’t care who won the game. (If anything, Portland winning meant more work for me because I was now on the hook for an Horry Scale post.) I just spontaneously felt like, as fan of sports, I needed to celebrate that moment, probably the best moment of the playoffs thus far.
What a shot, what a moment. Since that shot went down, more and more angles and versions of the shot have surfaced, and I thought we should compile them all in one place for posterity…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Earlier tonight I was at Brooklyn/Toronto Game 6, and I was talking with another media member about just how memorable the first round of these playoffs have been. A record number of Game 7s, tons of amazing finishes. HOWEVA, as I pointed out, there had been just one game winning buzzer beater thus far — Vince Carter against the Spurs. From my mouth to the basketball god’s ears, that all changed a few hours later, thanks to Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers, who eliminated the Houston Rockets with a dagger at the buzzer of Game 6 to end the series and give Portland a 99-98 win.
Before we go any further, 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, 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 inbounds play was terrific. Basically, everything matters.
After 18 regular season entries, we now have our second of the postseason. Let’s break this down…
As a shot, it wasn’t the toughest, mainly because Lillard was so open. On the inbound pass, Lillard basically just outran defender Chandler Parsons to get to the ball. You may wonder why a forward was guarding a much faster point guard on the play. This is a valid question. It wasn’t like Parsons got picked or screened, he was just out-run by Lillard, who was able to catch a pass and turn and shoot. And I love how if you look closely, you can see how he calls for the ball as he runs toward it. “I squared up and snapped my wrist,” Lillard told ESPN’s Heather Cox in his postgame interview, giving Portland their first first-round series win since 2000.
This has been a series about as close as it gets. These teams had turned in three overtime performances in their first five games, and this seemed destined for another OT. On their final possession, the Rockets weren’t able to get a clear look, until a rebound fell into Parsons’ hands under the basket and he flipped it up and in an easy shot to give Houston the lead with 0.9 remaining. It seemed like this was destined to go to 7 games like so many other series. But on the ensuing inbound, Lillard broke free and send the Rockets back to Texas.
I’m going to let this Vine speak for me. Crank up the volume and check this out…
I took some heat earlier this season when I gave some shots lower grades than you guys felt some shots deserved. My rationale was that the moments weren’t as large as they would be late in the season or in the postseason. Like tonight. The last time someone made a GWBB to end a series?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The first time I visited Houston, Texas, was just after Christmas in 2002. I was there for SLAM magazine to write a profile on Yao Ming and Steve Francis, and I spent about a week hanging around the Rockets. I also saw one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen while driving.
The Toyota Center, their current home, was not yet built; back then they played in the Compaq Center, previously known as The Summit. On a Sunday morning while I was there, the Rockets held a shootaround at their arena. It was relatively early, and because it was a weekend morning, I remember how quiet things were on my drive to the arena. I was in no hurry, so I cruised along, looking out the windows and trying to get a feel for Houston.
And then I came upon a railroad crossing. As I pulled up to it, the light above it turned red and the crossing flags began to lower, blocking the road and signaling that a train was coming. I slipped my rental car into park and settled in to sip my coffee and wait for the train to pass.
In my rear view mirror, I noticed a late-model sedan coming toward me. This car was in the lane next to me, so it wasn’t in danger of hitting me, but it was coming fast, much too fast to stop in time for the train crossing, and it seemed to be accelerating. I looked ahead and saw the train nearing the intersection. I turned my head just in time to follow the car as it hit the wooden crossing flags at full speed, shattering the wood and sending shards flying. The car shot across the train tracks, bouncing as it hit the other side of the road. Maybe two seconds later the train barreled through the intersection, as I sat there, my heart pounding, wondering if I was being Punk’d.
(Initially I wondered if the car was being pursued by authorities, but no other cars ever came along. I just sat there, totally alone, at the intersection until the train passed. I combed the local papers the next few days but never saw any mention of what I’d witnessed.)
I bring all that up because we have another NBA-related driving story out of Houston. Last night on his way to the Toyota Center, Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was involved in a minor car accident. How do we know it really happened? The other driver asked Parsons for an autograph after hitting his car…
A driver outside Toyota Center ran a red light and hit Parsons’ SUV near the entrance to the loading dock. Parsons said he and driver were not hurt, though it made him a few minutes late for treatment before shooting to see if he would be cleared to play.
“She said she ran a red light and it was her fault,” Parsons said. “She had a little car so it kind of messed up the front bumper of my car. She was OK. Asked me to sign her insurance card.”
I think we can say Parsons was fine — he played 40 minutes and scored 21 points.
As you’d expect, such great matchups weren’t lost on many of the NBA’s best players, some of whom took to Instagram to reveal who they were rooting for … or to show you which game they were attending.
The Florida-UConn game saw Houston Rockets stars Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons (an ex-Gator himself) in the crowd.
Former Georgetown star Allen Iverson surprisingly had some nice words for the UConn Huskies after the win … mostly because Iverson’s former Sixers teammate (and an ex-Husky himself) Kevin Ollie coaches the squad. Here’s what AI had to say:
Congratulations K.O. this couldn’t happen to a better person. I’m very excited about you being in the National Championship game. I never thought I could pull for UConn, but I will this year because you’re there. Good luck and God bless you … #TheAnswer
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last weekend in New Orleans, John Wall performed what was called the “Dunk of the Night” en route to walking away as the evening’s big winner. Even though it was only six years ago, the last time the dunk contest was in New Orleans was in 2008, and the winner of that dunk contest was Dwight Howard. These days Dwight’s dunks are more of the power variety, but yesterday at Rockets practice, Dwight showed that he can still get creative. James Hardengot in on it as well, but Dwight threw down a couple of nasty dunks, including this first one which left teammate Chandler Parsons speechless…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Houston Rockets are on the upswing, and as they make a run at being a championship contender, they’ve become more and more popular. And with increased popularity comes increased attention, which means the Rockets players get to have more and more interaction with their fans. Even if that interaction can be…non-traditional.
To begin, here’s an image a Rockets fan posted of taking a selfie in a bathroom, when he got photobombed by none other than Chandler Parsons.
Meanwhile, Parsons’ teammate James Harden posted a picture and captioned it, “With all the homies!! #WhichOneisMe?? #Footlocker #BeardGang”
I guess the lesson here is you never know where you’ll run into one of the Houston Rockets…or even if you’re running into one of the actual Rockets.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Here’s the latest spot for NBAStore.com, where you can order all kinds of gear and, if this commercial is correct, team up with your favorite players — such as Brandon Jennings, Chandler Parsons, Carlos Boozer and Andre Iguodala — to create huge mythological figures that apparently make scoring impossible.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The last few years have been a bit rough for Dwight Howard, at least in terms of public perception. Does he want to be traded or doesn’t he? Will he sign an extension or won’t he? Which team will he sign with in free agency? But what is it like playing alongside Dwight? Well, it seems pretty nice, at least on Christmas.
Several members of the Houston Rockets took to the internet yesterday to display their holiday gifts from Dwight, who seems to be a very conscientious gift-giver. According to James Harden, Howard got him the exact Audemars-Piguet watch that he wanted…
Dwight also went out and got Rolex’s for Chandler Parsons (here) and Greg Smith (here). And according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Dwight presumably went to the secondary market to find a pair of Air Mags for Aaron Brooks. “So generous,” Brooks told Stein. “Most people on the outside look at him wrong. I know ’cause I did, too, before [becoming Howard's teammate]. He’s a great guy. Huge heart.”
You’d think after all that, Dwight’s teammates might be a bit more willing to share a little love with Dwight. But even after Jeremy Lin poked fun at Dwight with his Instagram post the other day…
…if what we saw yesterday was any indication, you’d be wrong…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — We are deep into training camp and media days, which can mean only one thing: MUSCLEWATCH 2013 is fully upon us. And even as I am knee-deep in MUSCLEWATCH reports, coming in from around the NBA, imagine my surprise last week when I flipped on NBA TV and found MUSCLEWATCH reaching its largest audience yet: