VIDEO: Nikola Vucevic hits 18-footer at the buzzer
All Ball Nerve Center — Well, it’s been a weird season for the Orlando Magic. It actually began, coincidently, when they extended on offer sheet to free agent Paul Millsap, who decided to stay with the Hawks instead. OK, fine: Orlando decided to continue with the youth movement, with mixed results. And so the Magic had lost 15 of 17 games leading into their Super Bowl matinee with Millsap and the Hawks, who of course are headed in the opposite direction. In the last few days, with trade rumors fluttering about, Magic center Nikola Vucevic implored the Magic to stay the course of their current rebuild, saying: “There’s no reason to think we need to change anything. We have to find a way within each other to get back to what we were doing early in the year.” With that, Vucevic chose the right time to make a statement, with a buzzer-beater against the Hawks which, of course, automatically made him a candidate for the Horry Scale, which measures the quality of buzzer beaters.
DIFFICULTY: This was pretty dicey. Vooch was set up nicely with 2.2 seconds left on an inbounds pass by Elfrid Payton, who was dazzling for the Magic in the fourth quarter, generating much of their offense almost by himself with passes or shots. Al Horford was tight on Vooch, who dribbled once and let it fly with a turnaround (jumping off the wrong leg) from about 20 feet. Can’t blame Horford’s D.
GAME SITUATION: The Magic blew a 14-point lead and went scoreless for almost four minutes, one reason why they’re on the outside looking in with regard to the playoff picture. Defense has been a big issue with this team; they surrendered 107 or more points in eight straight games. They’re a young team and did what young teams do, let leads escape them. But in the final seconds with the score tied, Evan Fournier, one of the symbols of the Magic’s decent start to the season, grabbed a loose ball which triggered a timeout, which in turn triggered Vooch’s big shot.
CELEBRATION: Well, Vucevic had the good sense to hit the game-winner from in front of the Magic bench. One of the first guys to hug him was Magic assistant coach Mario Elie. You might remember his Kiss Of Death shot for the Rockets against the Suns in 1995. Oh yeah, a classic.
GRADE: The shot did plenty to lift the Magic out of their doldrums, if only temporary. But as epic shots go, meh. The Horry Scale is unforgiving, just like the player it’s named after. Let’s give it 2 Horrys.