by Micah Hart
When last we spoke around these parts, we were singing the praises of the Bulls’ Derrick Rose, one of the game’s great closers and someone we expect to see many Horry Scale entries from as the years go by.
Unfortunately Mr. Rose is currently out of the lineup for Chicago, having missed the past six games with a hamstring strain. So when the game came down to the final possession against the Raptors tonight, it brought up a quasi-philosophical question: if the Bulls need a game-winner and Rose isn’t around to take the shot, does it make a sound? (Or something like that).
Looks like we have our answer.
For those that 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 Clippers-Nets game), and celebration, and give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys.
The Bulls may not have Rose, but they still have one more All-Star, and that is Luol Deng. Let’s see how his understudy did:
The time element was the only thing difficult about this shot. Deng set a pick for C.J. Watson at the top of the key, then immediately dove to the basket to put himself in position for exactly what was to come — a potential tip-in situation. I would give Deng credit for a nice box-out to get his hold in the lane, but the Raptors really made it easy on him. To be fair, there is always a lot of chaos in a final-shot scenario like this, it’s easy to lose your man. But Deng faces no opposition at the basket once he gets in the air, and the ensuing tip-in after Watson’s shot comes up short is a piece of cake.
The Raptors led 101-100 after James Johnson hit 1-2 free throws with 15.2 seconds left in overtime, then failed to extend that lead when Gary Forbes missed a pair with 6.4 on the clock. The Bulls then inbounded the ball at midcourt with 6.0 seconds left — plenty of time to get a shot off, but with no room for error since they were trailing.
Here is what I wrote after Rose’s GWBB back on March 7:
The Bulls fell to the Heat in last season’s Eastern Conference finals, and the two teams appear on a crash course to go at it again this May. With the way Miami has improved, home-court advantage could certainly play a big role in that series, and as such, every win for Chicago will matter from here until the end of the regular season.
Since that win over the Bucks, the Bulls have gone 6-2, but have gained only one game on the Heat in the standings. The sentiment still stands.
If I had to make a list of every player in the NBA, then rank them most to least expressive, I’d probably put Deng somewhere next to Tim Duncan down near the very bottom*. So you know Deng has to be pumped to react the way he does after the ball drops — immediately pointing to the stands to celebrate with the fans. Of course by the time the camera pans in on his face the emotion is gone, but we’ll take what we can get from Lu. Bonus points for John Lucas nearly spinning like a top on Deng’s head, plus the shot of Rose watching it all unfold from the bench. By the way, someone tweeted after the game that in the Bulls’ last 82 games covering this season and last, their record is 68-14. Going to be an interesting postseason in the East, no doubt about it.
3 Horrys. Last-second tip-ins are always a fun sub-genre of the Horry Scale. I’m tempted to debit a half-Horry for the way the Raptors gave this one away, but I won’t. The stakes are always a little higher when you trail at the end, and Deng deserves a lot of credit for making a very difficult situation look relatively easy. Good on the Bulls for doing it all without Rose as well. And the cherry on top? The win made the Bulls the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff berth this season.
What do you think?