ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — In this video from the Dallas Mavericks, why is Devin Harris playing Ferris Bueller? Why is Dirk Nowitzki in the role of Principal Rooney? And is that Monta Ellis as Cameron Frye? Really, more questions than answers here, but still, this is the latest in a long line of great videos from the Dallas Mavericks…
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?
You’ve likely forgotten it, but back in 2010, Monta Ellis (then with the Warriors) made the viral video rounds with this over-the-head shot from the hallway at Oracle Arena.
Ellis’ teammate that season was none other than a precocious rookie named Steph Curry. While Curry would go on to be an All-Rookie First Team member and win three Rookie of the Month awards, perhaps Ellis’ ability to sink crazy shots from the tunnel rubbed off on him a little that season.
Check out this pretty amazing heave from Curry at practice the other day (although, admittedly, not as stellar as Ellis’ of three years ago), courtesy of Warriors.com:
Stemming from his days as the No. 1 scorer on the Golden State Warriors, Monta Ellis has a bit of a reputation as a chucker — particularly from 3-point range. That belief (in the Warriors-era Ellis, at least) is not unfounded, especially when you review his advanced stats from those seasons. For the record, Ellis spent his first 6 1/2 seasons in Oakland. In those seasons, here’s what percentage of his points came from 3-point attempts during his Warriors years: 2005-06 (25.8 percent), 2006-07 (14.2), 2007-08 (4.2), 2008-09 (6.0), 2009-10 (16.2), 2010-11 (23.5) and 2011-12 (19.3).
This season, his first full one in Milwaukee, Ellis’ percentage of points from 3-point attempts is at 20.1 and when Ellis gets on the road this season, that percentage bumps up to 23.4. So, overall, not much of a big change in his game, even with a change of scenery.
Good thing that Ellis is so 3-happy, though, because they needed his long-range touch last night to pull off a stunner at the Toyota Center over the Houston Rockets. The Rockets seemed in control of this one early, but by halftime everything was tied up and a second half of lead changes and ties ensued. James Harden knotted the score at 107 with 34.7 seconds left and the Bucks actually had a couple of non-dramatic chances to win this, but couldn’t come through until Ellis saved their bacon.
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 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.
How does Ellis’ game-winning shot Wednesday night stack up? Let’s dive in …
Do Jennings and Ellis have a running competition to see who can sink a game winner with the least amount of time left on the clock? When Jennings made his shot against the Cavs on Nov. 4, he did so with :00.7 remaining in the game. Last night, when Ellis made his shot, there was about :00.8 on the clock when the ball left his hands. That’s just the sort of thing that Milwaukee’s explosive-if-unpredictable backcourt can do from game to game.
Back to Ellis’ shot, though: could it have been tougher? First, he’s camped out left of the 3-point line waiting for a pass from Jennings that seemingly isn’t going to come. As Jennings tries to drive on Jeremy Lin (and is subsequently cut off), Jennings pitches it to Ellis with about a second left with Ellis facing the sideline as he catches it. In one quick motion, Ellis turns to the basket, fades on the 6-foot-9 Chandler Parsons and chucks it toward the rim. Keep in mind that Ellis is listed at 6-foot-3, but that might be stretching things.
Much like the baseline floater that J.R. Smith nailed to do in the Suns earlier this season, a scorer like Ellis always knows where the rim is, knows how much space he needs and knows the shot clock/game clock situation. Unlike Smith, Ellis wasn’t faced with a designed play for him to get the ball.
In terms of difficulty, it’s hard to find a tougher shot (that the Bucks chose to take) in this situation.
Score tied at 107 with, Bucks have the ball at midcourt. Had Ellis missed, this one is headed to OT and a chance for the Bucks and Rockets — the current No. 8 seeds in their respective conferences — to bolster their playoff bids with a victory.
If we are going by eras in Milwaukee, the Bucks were 26-27 in the first full season of the Jennings-Ellis pairing and were 1-1 in the two games since they acquired J.J. Redick from the Orlando Magic in a trade deadline-day deal. What’s more important than eras in Milwaukee (or Houston, for that matter) is staying in the playoff race. The Bucks have less to worry on that front as the Sixers, Raptors and Pistons have a far-off-at-best shot at the postseason. In the West, the Rockets have a much tougher bid for No. 8 with the disappointing Lakers trying to get back to .500 and climb into Houston’s spot.
Overall, in terms of the playoff chase, this one likely meant more to Houston’s cause than Milwaukee’s (although a first-round date with the Heat isn’t exactly something the Bucks are savoring).
Gotta love the mad dash for the locker room that Ellis makes after his shot. And as a confident-if-streaky shooter, Ellis told The Associated Press what we’d expect to hear from him after sinking that shot: “I just threw it up. The buzzer went off when it was rolling around the rim. Wasn’t any need for me to come back out [to see the review].” Basically, there’s no celebration here for the Bucks because Ellis just wants to get to the Houston airport and back to Milwaukee as soon as possible.
4 1/2 Horrys. Smith’s buzzer-beater against the Suns came off a clearly set play in a different situation. But to us, something about this Ellis shot has a lot in common with Smith’s in Arizona a few months ago. Call Ellis a 3-point chucker if you like (and as his shot charts show, he likes the 3-ball), but also call him Horry-like for coming through with a pretty tough shot.
As everyone knows by now, the compressed NBA schedule will force every team to play three games in three nights at least one this season (42 times in total). With only 66 games to stake a claim to a playoff spot or seed, how teams perform during these killer slates could have a large impact on how their seasons turn out.
With that in mind, we’re going to keep track of each of the 42 three-plays to see which teams take advantage and which teams fall apart. Up next, the Portland Trail Blazers, who played three straight from Jan. 23-25.
Every time I see a fan base start to complain about bad luck, or how nothing ever works out for them, I think of Portland. That is not to say that I think Blazers fans whine all the time; on the contrary, I think of the incredible adversity and horrible luck with injuries that franchise has faced in the past few years and how despite that, they’ve still managed to make the playoffs and contend where I believe others would have folded up the tent and gone home.
When this season started with the announcement of another Greg Oden injury setback and then the retirement of Brandon Roy, I assumed Portland was done for. And though it hasn’t been easy, here they are again, keeping their heads above water and competing for the playoffs. If they have the fortitude for that, I’m sure the three-play will be a piece of cake. Let’s go to the scoreboard and find out:
Game 1: Blazers 101, Kings 89 - When you have three games in three nights, it’s great to have a guy like Jamal Crawford available, who on the right night can get hot and carry the team by himself. This was one of those nights, as Crawford sprung for a game-high 26 off the bench to lead the Blazers to an easy win. 2 points (1 for win, 1 for +10 margin)
Game 2: Blazers 97, Grizzlies 84 - So far so good, as Portland picks up another seemingly easy win, this time against the Grizzlies. Marcus Camby did his best Ben Wallace impression in this one, pulling down 22 caroms while scoring only three points. 4 points (3 for win, 1 for +10 margin)
Game 3: Warriors 101, Blazers 93 - Finally away from the friendly confines of the Rose Garden, the Blazers fell short to the Warriors in the final game to fall short of becoming the third team to sweep their three for all. Normally you’d like your chances against the Warriors when Monta Ellis scores only four points, but on this night he dished out 12 assists and Steph Curry picked up the slack with 32 to deny Portland perfection. 0 points
The Blazers finish with 6 total points, which in some ways doesn’t do them justice for their performance (with two +10 wins), but that’s why the third game is so important — it’s the hardest to win, home or away.
Up next: The Detroit Pistons play three straight Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 as they take on the three-play challenge entirely on the road: at Milwaukee, at New York, and at New Jersey.
Another day, another slice o’ rookie hazing, this time courtesy of Monta Ellis and the Warriors’ recent open practice at Oracle Arena.
No one is particularly impressive (and none can hold a candle to the Warriors fan who comes out of the stands to give an impromptu lesson), but I’ll say this — I’ll watch the Warriors rookies dance all day long before sitting through another rendition of their Happy Birthday serenade to Brandan Wright.
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