Courtney Lee’s mental clock must tick smooth like a Rolex … a real one!
Because the Memphis Grizzlies swingman didn’t miss a beat with his buzzer-beating heroics in his team’s epic 111-110 comeback win over the Sacramento Kings Thursday night at the FedEx Forum.
Lee’s beautifully-timed work not only secured the Grizzlies’ rally from a 22-point first quarter deficit that sent fans onto Beale Street feeling giddy about their Grizzlies, it also landed him a prime position on the Horry Scale.
Welcome, Courtney Lee, to the pantheon of clutch shot-makers who have helped make the modern highlight (and the game-winning bucket) the staple it has become in our daily sports diet.
Around here, such plays are evaluated according to difficulty, game situation, importance and celebration. Then they get an overall grade, represented with 1-5 Robert Horry stars, in honor of the vagabond marksman who helped the Rockets (two), Lakers (three) and Spurs (two) capture seven titles in his years with them.
Again, the Horry Scale does not measure only a game-winning shot; the Horry Scale measures several facets of a GWBB. 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, the total package
Catch and shoot. It was the only option with so little time (:00.3 to be exact) on the clock. Well, try catching it under the basket and getting a reverse layup to go in over your head with the game on the line. It helped that the Kings fell for each and every jab step and head fake from each and every Grizzlies player, thus freeing Lee up to get to his spot unabated for the game-winning shot attempt.The catch and shoot part of it all was on Lee, and that was plenty difficult, considering the body contortion necessary tor completion of the play. The getting there, however, was courtesy of the Kings … who are clearly in a giving mood this week. This was their second straight come-from-ahead-loss of the week. They led Dallas by 18 points after the first quarter Tuesday and wound up losing 106-98. They are the first team in NBA history to lose back-to-back games that they led by 18 or more points in the first quarter.
Perhaps everyone was still in shock that the Grizzlies had come all the way back. How else do you explain them having those precious .3 seconds to work with on a do-or-die shot? If Vince Carter’s pass is off every so slightly, it’s game over. If a defender knocks Lee off course as he makes his break to the basket, there’s no way he gets his hands on the ball and gets that shot off in time. The play worked in real time exactly the way Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger scribbled it up on the whiteboard in the huddle. Marc Gasol set the perfect screen on Darren Collison. When Jason Thompson and Collison crashed into each other trying to recover, it was already too late. Lee gathered himself and was in the air with his arms outstretched. He grabbed the ball and kissed it off the glass all in the same motion. Game over.
For a Grizzlies team trying to stay atop of and set the pace in the Western Conference standings, stealing this game was huge. No team with designs on a top four seed in the playoff chase can afford to let a game like this slip away. Coming all the way back and not finishing the deal would have been a crusher.
It’s hard to tell if the look of disbelief on Lee’s face was based on his acrobatic layup going in ahead of the final buzzer or because he got completely wide open on the play. The crowd, already on its feet, went bonkers as the ball went off the glass and through the net. Lee made the rounds from the corner of the floor all the way to the Grizzlies bench, hopping in and out of the arms of his teammates along the way. It wasn’t the nifty leap onto the the scorers table we saw from Lance Stephenson. Lee had to get to the bench and watch the review on the jumbotron. He and Tayshaun Prince looked skyward and Lee raised both hands like a boxer who had just heard his name called as the winner.
Courtney Lee is an unlikely hero on a Grizzlies team with several more high-profile options. It’s a testament to this Grizzlies team that no one minds sharing the glory. It could have just as easily been Tony Allen or even Zach Randolph on the receiving end of that pass from Carter…
Given the early deficit, the comeback and the extreme degree of difficulty on that final play, the catch and the kiss … off the glass, it’s hard to give anything high marks to Lee and the Grizzlies for a game-winning play that makes its namesake proud. Give it four Horrys.