ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last night in Chicago, as part of the celebration of the Bulls’ 50th anniversary, they celebrated the first of several “Decade Nights.” For the Thunder game last evening, it was dubbed ’60s night, which was observed in a number of ways, including the Bulls wearing throwback jerseys. And even though Mike Dunleavy Jr. was injured and unable to play, he still went all out and sat on the bench with his best ’60s look. (Which may be more of a ’70s look, but whatever. Good job, great effort.)
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — After a flurry of Horry Scale entries around the winter holidays, we went into a long slumber, with no game-winning buzzer-beaters since January 3, when Andre Iguodala last made an entry. But now, after a long day of NBA action, thanks to Taj Gibson and the Chicago Bulls’ 102-100 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, we have yet another GWBB to break down.
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.
With the groundwork laid, let’s do this, shall we?
DIFFICULTY With 0.9 left on the clock, the Bulls most likely had to run a play where the guy who caught the ball was heading toward the basket. If you watch closely, even before the ball is inbounded to Gibson, every Bulls player is streaking toward the rim, ready and able to get off a last-second shot. Jimmy Butler acts as sort of a bulldozer, moving Lakers guard Nick Young out of the lane. And as Gibson cuts to the basket, he manages to pin his defender, Lakers wing Manny Harris, behind him, basically creating a Taj-Gibson-sized target moving toward the rim. Yet with all seven-feet of Pau Gasol defending Mike Dunleavy, who was there to make the pass, Dunleavy had to resort to a bounce pass to get the ball to Gibson. Gasol spun around and ended up running at Gibson, nearly blocking the shot. But Gibson made a smooth catch and lefty layup (he shoots his jumpers righty), all in less than a second. If all that wasn’t enough, according to Bulls announcer Chuck Swirsky, Gibson said he’d never even made a game-winner before …
Post game interviews coming up shortly on bulls TV Taj Gibson told me just moments ago that was his first ever game-winning shot amazing
Since trading away Luol Deng and waiving Andrew Bynum, the immediate future of the Bulls — or at least their intentions — has been somewhat murky. Their roster may not be what we thought it would be at the start of the season, but Tom Thibodeau teams always play hard, and Monday night was no exception. Even after taking a three-point lead in overtime, which Nick Young erased via free throws with four seconds to go, these Bulls don’t know when to say when.
One of the problems endemic to GWBB’s is that often the players involved aren’t even sure whether or not the shot actually beat the buzzer, which can lead to some subdued celebrations. Still, the Bulls players were pretty excited, including a leaping chest/shoulder bump between Jo Noah and Gibson. But if there was an image that summed up how great the Bulls felt about the win, it was the shot of all-business Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau smiling and giving Gibson five as they left the court.
Lefty layup. Contested shot. Slick inbounds play. Overtime. Thibs smiling. Thibs smiling! I have been criticized in the past for being too tough on some shots, but the only thing I discount about this game/play is that it was a .500 team (Chicago) against a team 10 games under .500 (L.A.). If this was a playoff game I’d go five Horrys. But for now, I’m going four Horrys …
What say you? How many Horrys does Taj Gibson’s shot deserve?
End of quarter buzzer-beating heaves are a staple of the game. Some clank off the back of the rim. Some hit nothing but air. Some even go in. They are generally uncontested because no one wants to pick up a stupid foul while the ballhandler is careening wildly for an angle to get an impossible shot off.
Then the Raptors’ John Lucas III comes Monday night against the Bucks and hit as difficult a buzzer-beating 3-pointer as you’re gonna see.
Despite the effort of Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Beno Udrih, Lucas III was not to be denied.
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