ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — A few weeks back, Knicks guard J.R. Smith was caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, as he distracted a few opponents by untying their shoes. Last night against the Mavs, Smith unveiled a new diversionary tactic versus Vince Carter…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Juuuust when you thought we were out, they go and pull us back in. The season may be just past the halfway mark, but our record-setting pace is continuing, as tonight Dirk Nowitzki did his dagger-shooting thing to beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
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 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.
We all clear? OK, let’s break this shot down…
DIFFICULTY I feel like this is the part of this play that will be most overlooked. Yes, it was just a jump shot, and as far as play designs go, it wasn’t exactly the most complex play Rick Carlisle has ever inked out. But man was that a hard shot. I mean, if Carmelo Anthony was any closer to Dirk he could have untied his shoes. Dallas got the ball in to Dirk at top of key with the score tied at 108 and just 7.3 seconds left to play. Dirk caught the ball with his back to the basket, singled up against ‘Melo. Using his left foot as a pivot, Dirk rotated a full 360 degrees while ‘Melo sniped at the ball. He finally dribbled one time with his left hand, and jabbed his right foot forward just a bit to create a few inches of space. And with Carmelo basically chest-to-chest, Dirk raised up and released that textbook jump shot over ‘Melo with just under 2 seconds remaining. The ball hit the glass, the front of the rim, popped up into the air, and then gently settled back into the bucket. Again, not the most aesthetically pleasing play, but good grief what a tough shot.
GAME SITUATION This was perhaps an even tougher pill for Knicks fans to swallow because of the game situation. After being a mostly back-and-forth affair all evening, the Mavs seized the lead down the stretch. But give the Knicks credit for clawing back, mostly behind 44 points from ‘Melo. Down 6 with 1:12 to play, the Knicks got a three-point play from Chandler, a steal, and a three from Melo to tie the game at 108. Dallas had won 9 of 12 coming in, including two straight on the road. With the Knicks still clinging to hopes of getting into the playoffs, tonight was the kind of game they really had to win. To lose on a shot that bounced all over the rim before dropping in must be tough. But then, the Knicks have been on the other side of a similar situation before, right Allan Houston?
CELEBRATION Dirk seemed to mostly keep his cool, because this ain’t Dirk’s first time at the big shot rodeo. I loved the way Jose Calderon took off on a sprint up the court as the shot went through, and he grabbed Dirk in a bear hug to celebrate. Also, of late I’ve tried to incorporate fan reaction into the ratings, and Knicks fans did not disappoint, as you can see several of them with their hands to their heads in the background as the shot drops through.
So it may not have been the best play design, but it was still a tough shot. It may not have been the most momentous game, or the most spirited reaction, but all together it was a pretty good play. So I’m going to go with three Horrys for this one…
What say you? How many Horrys would you give Dirk Nowitzki’s GWBB?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Over the weekend, cameras caught Knicks guard J.R. Smithuntying Shawn Marion‘s shoe just before a free throw attempt. Marion then played two possessions with a shoe untied, before a break in play allowed him the time to fix his kick. This apparently drew a warning to Smith from the NBA, although there was no fine or suspension. And for his part, Smith admitted on Twitter that the ol’ shoelace trick is something he does had been doing regularly…
So in last night’s Knicks game against Detroit, as soon as Smith checked in during the first quarter, he ran over to line up for a free throw, stood next to Pistons big Greg Monroe, and went straight for the shoelace …
This time, we should note, Smith was foiled by some fancy footwork from Monroe. Whether Smith will draw a warning about not untying shoes remains to be seen. One idea for Knicks’ opponents to perhaps add to their scouting reports: Double-knot your laces.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Knicks guard J.R. Smith is very many things. A scorer, for sure. Dynamic? OK! Mercurial? Well, yep. Maddening? At times. Surprising? Nearly always.
Perhaps a good word to describe Smith is entertaining, because you’re never quite sure what he’s going to do, on or off the court, but no matter what it is, it’s pretty entertaining.
Take last night’s game against the Mavericks. A few minutes before halftime, Smith checked into the lineup for the Knicks, while Dirk Nowitzki was at the free throw line. J.R. lined up along the lane next to Shawn Marion, and for reasons known only to J.R., he casually reached down and untied Marion’s left sneaker. Is this a new level of subterfuge previously unseen? It didn’t seem to have much long-term effect.
So why did he do it? I guess the best explanation is, it’s a J.R. Smith thing.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last night’s Mavericks at Minnesota game came down to a final shot attempt. Down 100-98, the Wolves ran an inbounds play for Kevin Love, who popped free and stepped left for a long jumper that would have sent the game to overtime. Dallas had Shawn Marion defending on the play. Marion dominated the Wolves offensively, racking up 32 points, but it was the defensive play he made against Love at the end of the game that had people talking.
Specifically, the Wolves television (Dave Benz and Jim Petersen) and radio (Alan Horton) announcers couldn’t stop talking about it, as you can hear in the clip below. They just couldn’t believe a foul wasn’t called on the play. BRUTAL.
UPDATE: Via the NBA, a statement on the play from Rod Thorn, NBA President of Basketball Operations: “Through postgame video review, we have determined that Minnesota’s Kevin Love was fouled on the right arm by Dallas’ Shawn Marion while attempting a two-point field goal. Love should have been awarded two free throws with one second left on the clock.”
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I can not tell a lie: It has been a season of highs and lows here at Horry Scale Central. We began the season with three Game-Winning Buzzer-Beaters within seven days, a flurry of activity to make even the most jaded NBA watcher’s head twirl. This required me to write three Horry Scale posts in succession, which turned out to be a controversial endeavor. Folks weren’t happy with my rating of the Jeff Green GWBB, which kept me up very late at night, triggering some difficult and genuine soul searching, at least as far as you know. Since then I have perhaps tried to overcorrect with some of my other ratings, a maneuver that has in no small part generated its own share of controversy, and which has caused something of an existential Horry Scale crisis.
But I digress. Before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain: 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.
With the rules in place, Today we turn our tired eyes to the lovely Pacific Northwest. Let’s check out last night’s game-winner from Monta Ellis…
Monta Ellis has made tougher shots in his career, probably even in this game. This was basically a catch-and-shoot on a curl coming around a screen, a shot Ellis has taken thousands of times in his life. And Ellis made a clean catch, swung around the screen, and had a wide open look at the basket. And yes, he drained the shot, so kudos to him. To me the most interesting thing on this play was that the Blazers did not switch defenders on the screen. In the NBA, for the most part defenders always switch on picks in the last few seconds of a game, and particularly on an inbounds play. This is not only easy for the players on the floor to remember, in a more general sense it means defenders are always running at the ball when there are only seconds to play. But as Ellis came around the series of screens, Portland’s Wesley Matthews tried to stay with him, with no real help waiting for him. (As my main man Ben Golliver reports on Blazers Edge, Portland had decided before the play to only switch guard-on-guard screens. Dallas’ other guard on the floor was Jose Calderon, who was inbounding the ball, so the Blazers all knew there would effectively be no switching.) By the time Ellis caught the pass, curled around the pick from DaJuan Blair and popped free at the top of the key, Portland’s best defensive option may have been LaMarcus Aldridge, who was flat-footed about six feet away from Ellis. Matthews made a last-second swipe at the ball from behind while trying to recover, but he couldn’t make a difference.
What you don’t see in the clip above is the clutch three-pointer Lillard made to tie the game with 1.9 seconds remaining. That play was set up by a Dallas turnover from, you guessed it, Monta Ellis. So in many ways this GWBB was about redemption for Monta. Still, once Dallas got the ball with the game tied, it seemed like it would probably be Dirk Nowitzki time, right? Even in the video above, as the Mavs line up for the play, you can hear Portland analyst Mike Rice note, “Watch [DaJuan] Blair set a pick for either Vince Carter or Dirk.” So Dallas coach Rick Carlisle using the situation to run a play for Ellis was not only in retrospect a wise choice, it was crafty, as well.
This was big on both sides. The Blazers had been riding a four-game winning streak, and had amassed eight straight wins at home. The crowd in Portland, which is always among the best in sports, was rowdy and sold out, twenty-thousand strong. The Mavs, meanwhile, after an offseason that was quieter than most expected, have been something of a mild surprise this season, bobbing along a couple of games above .500. Any road win in the NBA is a good thing, but a road win over the best team in the Conference is always a great thing.
The Mavs seemed really fired up by Ellis’ shot, surrounding him and grabbing him. Also, I’m pretty sure someone ran off the Dallas bench and hit Ellis with a large cushion at about the 19-second mark of the video. I particularly enjoyed this facet of the celebration: The cushion bash needs to become a regular part of post-shot celebrations.
If nothing else, Mavs owner Mark Cuban was jacked up about it…
I think we can all agree that the degree of difficulty wasn’t through the roof, at least just as a jump shot, in a bubble. But all the other parts of this play — Ellis’ earlier turnover, Lillard’s game-tying three moments earlier, Portland’s home win streak, Dallas’ execution on the final play — give added weight to the play. This is one of those situations where I wish we had half-Horrys to award, because I really feel like this is a 3.5 Horry Play. Should I round up or down? That’s another discussion for another day. In this case, I’m going with four Horrys, because for me the post-shot cushion bash lifts it from three to four…
That’s my take. How many Horry’s would you give the Monta Ellis game-winner?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — We had a mini-controversy erupt over the long NBA offseason, as Nets coach Jason Kidd became embroiled in…CupGate? WaterGate? SodaGate?
Whatever you want to call it, late in a close game against the Lakers and out of timeouts, Kidd may or may not have intentionally spilled a drink onto the court to delay the game. The Nets basically got a free timeout out of the incident, but lost the game anyway. Kidd was fined $50,000, and he apologized and everyone mostly moved on.
But Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spotted something he might have seen before, and he took to Twitter to point it out. Turns out a drink spill happened in a Dallas/Chicago game back in 2009, giving the Bulls a few free seconds to make some adjustments.
And who was on the court for Dallas when all this occurred? Point guard Jason Kidd…
Who was the first coach to spill a coke to get a time out ??
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Heading into the fourth quarter of last night’s Mavs/Rockets game, ESPN’s Chris Broussard had a couple of questions for Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. Unfortunately for Broussard, this was also the exact moment that Carlisle decided to break out his Gregg Popovich impression… -
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last night the Dallas Mavericks came from behind to take a late lead on the Houston Rockets, and they were able to hang on for a 123-120 victory. This morning, Mavs owner Mark Cuban did a little celebrating on the Twitter…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — One of my favorite videos of this young season is the Dallas Mavericks’ version of “The Fox” that we linked to the other day. It’s a catchy song that is popular on its own, before the Mavs got involved with animal costumes and random players singing nonsense lyrics. But the Mavs haven’t stopped there, as they keep cranking out parody videos. Their latest missive? A version of the Spongebob Squarepants opening, complete with Captain Mark Cuban… -