ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Ever want to get away from it all? It’s the summer, the NBA season is dunzo, and we’re still over a week away from the NBA draft. So if you want to get away, it looks like Thunder forward Serge Ibaka found the perfect place to do so, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Plop down in that kayak and go, Serge, go.
Every night, the NBA yields a jaw-dropping play, or 10. But certain nights give you more. With “only” eight games on Sunday’s slate, the leapers — particularly in Brooklyn — loosened their limbs and decided to occupy more space on the Dunk HQ and Top Plays Theater. From All-Stars to bench warmers to the guys in L.A., many hoopers around the Association ascended high and crashed hard:
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — And we’re back. Not even five weekdays since Randy Foyeroused us on a quiet Monday evening, and the Horry Scale has been awakened by a rim-rattling dunk from Orlando’s Tobias Harris.
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.
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.
OK, so you understand? For our records, this is the fourteenth GWBB this season, so our record-setting pace continues unabated. for now, let’s break this shot down…
It was an undefended dunk, the kind of dunk Tobias Harris has probably converted hundreds or even thousands of times in his life. But I doubt he’s ever put one down with literally no time left on the clock. After Kevin Durant missed his jumper that would have put Oklahoma City up 3, Victor Oladipo out-fought Thabo Sefolosha and Reggie Jackson to corral the ball, and by the time Oladipo had it and was heading up court, there were just under 4 seconds remaining. Even though they had a timeout remaining, the Magic played on and took advantage of the numbers. In the next four seconds, Oladipo dribbled the length of the court and got into the paint, where Jeremy Lamb stepped up to cut off his drive. Lamb left Maurice Harkless alone on the baseline, and Oladipo hit him with a bounce pass. Harkless caught the ball with 1.5 seconds remaining, and immediately dished it back to a trailing Tobias Harris, who dunked it home with no time remaining. It was a terrific pass by Harkless, but it was as gutsy as it was fundamentally sound — with such a miniature amount of time left, this game was pretty close to ending with Harris a couple of inches away from a GWBB. But he made it, and the Magic won in thrilling come-from-behind fashion.
The Thunder had an 8-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Magic outscored them 23-14 in the fourth to get the W. There were two things about the situation around this particular play that stuck out to me: 1. Durant shot the ball with about 3 seconds left on the shot clock. I know he was able to get to one of his preferred spots on the court, at the free throw line extended, which is a shot he makes more often than not. But if he’d been able to wait just a second longer, the Magic wouldn’t have had the time to grab the board and do what they did. 2. The Thunder had a small lineup in at the time, and when Durant’s shot went up, Serge Ibaka was the only member of the Thunder anywhere near the rim in a rebounding position. And the long bounce from the miss then took him out of contention for the rebound.
Now that’s a celebration. With no time on the clock, the Magic players knew they could celebrate, so the bench guys rushed the court. The camera work became shaky, like something out of a movie. Harris received a trio of chest bumps, ending with a thunderous hug from Big Baby Davis. Also, you want to see what disbelief looks like? Check out the Thunder bench…
As I wrote above, and I hope you remember this, IT ISN’T ONLY ABOUT THE SHOT. It’s about the entire play, and the accumulated circumstances surrounding the shot. As a dunk, in a vacuum, for an NBA player it wasn’t the most difficult shot. But put everything together, including a lottery team playing the best team in the West, and making a shot while down a point to win the game, and it was a pretty epic play for the Magic. I can’t give this 5 stars, only because this is a regular season game and I have to be able to still go up from here once we reach the playoffs. So instead, I’m giving this 4 Horrys, the same grade to which I retroactively rated Jeff Green’s season-opening shot.
What say you? How many Horrys would you give Tobias Harris’s GWBB?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — It’s late at night, I’ve got one full day of vacation staring me in the face, and before I drift off to bed, I’m thinking about the last few things I’d like to accomplish (a long nap tomorrow, not doing chores, etc.) before heading back to the blizzard in NYC. And then Joe Johnson does it again. The Brooklyn Nets needed a win in the worst way, and who better to turn to than Joe Cool?
I know we usually air these posts out a bit, but this one is going to be a bit more to the point, because, you know, vacation. But 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 other thing before we move on: I’ve received a few emails from Blazers fans and Thunder fans wondering why I had not done Horry Scale posts for their teams when Lillard and Westbrook have hit game-winners. My reasoning is sound: Those guys have hit game-winners, yes, but they both left tenths of a second on the clock. And as we all know from reading the rules above, we are looking for shots with 0.0 remaining on the clock.
Which leads us to Joe Johnson…
The toughest part of Joe’s game winner was having the 6-10ish Serge Ibaka guarding him. But the rest of the shot was the same kind of shot Joe’s been knocking down his entire pro career. He inbounded the ball to Kevin Garnett, who handed it back to Joe, and then you can see all the other Nets clear out of the way and just let Joe do his thing. I’ve often said that if Joe Johnson were in a one-on-one contest against any other NBA player, I think he’d fare pretty well, because he’s terrific at using his dribble and his size to nearly always get his shot off. And this instance was no exception.
More like season situation. The Nets have famously been something of a mess this season, and the recent season-ending injury to Brook Lopez led to many thinking it was time to put the final fork in the Nets (if we hadn’t already). So to say they needed a win not just on this night but to give life to their season is no understatement. And I’m pretty sure nobody thought that win would come on the road, against the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder.
Rowdy. Even moreso than on Johnson’s previous game-winner this season. Of course, even though this isn’t an overtime finish, the Nets probably have more at stake now than they did a few weeks back. They’ve been knocked down, but they got up again.
We’ve had a run of 4 Horry scores of late, and I think it’s time to break that streak. While the shot over the bigger defender was impressive, it was a basic jumper in a one-on-one setting. So I’m giving this three Horrys…
What say you? How many Horrys does Joe Johnson’s GWBB deserve?
THE HEADQUARTERS — As the Stylistics eloquently put it, payback is a dog and Russell Westbrook has packed the meanest bite of the young NBA season.
After a thrilling finish in the Bay Area a little over two weeks ago, when Westbrook and Andre Iguodala traded clutch baskets, we knew the rematch would be a battle. What competitor doesn’t crave get-back after coming up short?
Consider it a mission complete by Westbrook, who couldn’t have served a colder dish than his turnaround 3 in OT with 0.1 seconds left to lift OKC to a 113-112 win. This time, he didn’t give anybody a chance to return the favor.
He started the game hitting his first five shots, then went 4-for-19 until his victory-snatching snipe. In a game that featured 20 lead changes, 32 points from Stephen Curry, a poster dunk from Serge Ibaka, this game had “Game of the Year” written on it before you-know-who ended matters.
Best game, best shot, best celebration? Yes. Yes. Affirmative. And yes, you want to mark January 17 in your calendars.
The shot alone is enough to catapult Russ to the peak of the Top Plays mountain. What adds to it is what came directly before. Ibaka missed a foul-line jumper at the top of the key and Jermaine O’Neal was a simple rebound away from securing possession and most likely the game for Golden State. But he didn’t box out and that’s all Westbrook (who flew in from the 3-point line) needed to knock the loose ball away from a surprised O’Neal.
Thabo Sefalosha tracked down the rock andmade a blind save to a springing Westbrook, who in a flash snatched the ball out the air with his right hand, took one dribble toward the 3-point line, looked left, whirled right and launched before a scrambling Harrison Barnes could give a good contest.
(Actually, Barnes did get a hand up. Westbrook just got a clean look first).
The dejected look on Barnes (13 seconds into the above clip) is the perfect flip side to the pandemonium surrounding him.
BONUS: Luckily, a fan caught the emotional moment from an excellent courtside angle.
Which was better? Both were done in the midst of a blowout and both were completely unexpected. I’m going with Iguodala because of the original factor and the lessened margin of error of being in the corner. But Stephenson’s dime did count for three points on the board…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — NBA players are just like anyone else, and end up celebrating Halloween by dressing up in wacky costumes. Here’s a sampling of images they’ve shared of them in costume via various social media thus far…
Serge Ibaka as Coming To America‘s Prince Akeem, and girlfriend Keri Hilson as Lisa McDowell…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — As part of our continuing hard-hitting series celebrating the best in local advertising, let’s take a moment to say farewell to the Oklahoma City Thunder. After losing star PG Russell Westbrook in the first round to injury, the Thunder soldiered on without him, even winning a game against the Grizz in dramatic fashion, but eventually, the Grit-N-Grind Grizz sent the Thunder fishing.
But before they go home, let’s take a moment to recognize the Thunder supporting cast who did their best even if it wasn’t quite enough — guys like Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Reggie Jackson. They may not be headliners like Kevin Durant and Westbrook, but that doesn’t mean they can’t move product, as we see from their performances here in this ad from a few months back for Norman Chrysler Jeep and Dodge.
And hey, I’d like to see you try to get Perk to sing “that goofy song.” Good luck with that. -
The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Toronto Raptors earlier, 104-92. Kevin Durant scored…blah, blah, blah. KD and Russell Westbrook’s daily/nightly heroics are never not appreciated around here. It’s just that — from the vantage point of this observer — the game didn’t belong to them.
It belonged to the Raptors and Serge Ibaka. To wit, how many times have you seen Ibaka posterized twice in a game?
Ibaka got over just a bit late and Amir Johnson gladly made him pay.
And then in the fourth quarter:
To add insult to injury, Ibaka was on the wrong side of a four-point play:
I’m sure Ibaka (19 points, eight rebounds) would take the win, but I’m also sure he’d rather not get doubly posterized and four-point played in the process.
The Association has a tendency to use a lull as bait; just when you think the cadence of the season is figured out, something happens to heighten — or floor — the senses. On a 10-game Saturday night, copious highlights are a given. But what made last night unusual was the swat party invites.
Twenty-one players recorded two or more blocks. Twelve players rejected three or more shots, to wit:
Three Blocks Tayshaun Prince Timofey Mozgov Tyson Chandler Jared Jeffries Elton Brand LeBron James Joel Anthony Kris Humphries Tyrus Thomas
Five Blocks Serge Ibaka
Six Blocks Marc Gasol Samuel Dalembert
Without further ado, here are Saturday night’s top five stuffs:
OK, so Deron Williams‘ hops aren’t Derrick Rose’s. But clean blocks off dunk attempts aren’t as easy as it appears. You get the feeling that Ibaka gets out of bed for these moments.
3) Derrick Favors waits on Nikola Pekovic
Pekovic didn’t have much momentum and Favors had the angle. Plus he was preying on that play as soon as the screen was set. Just mean. And impressive.
2) Yi meets DaJuan Summers at the rim
Talk about full steam. Summers had a good four steps before he took off, but couldn’t avoid the tentacles of the mighty Yi Jianlian. Note the quick sidestep to the left by Yi before launching. Decent degree of difficulty.
1) DanteCunningham crashes DeMarcus Cousins’ party
My favorite for a couple of reasons. One, it was excellent help-side defense (not to mention footwork) by Cunningham to get to the spot in time. Two, it was a total collaborative effort by the Grizzlies. Gasol shows on the screen, hustles back to Cousins, helps off to cover Francisco Garcia, which leaves Cousins momentarily open. Seventy-five percent (armchair estimate and all) of the time … that’s either a bucket, foul or both. Cunningham, all of 6-foot-8, puts the coup de grace to the Kings’ possession.
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