ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — When an NBA player is waiting to check into an NBA game, they’re usually asked to take a seat in front of the scorer’s table, so that the timekeeper can remember to blow the horn and let the refs know there’s a sub waiting to check in. During Wednesday night’s Portland/Milwaukee game, while Wesley Matthews was waiting to check in, a referee stopped by the scorer’s table to ask a question, and from Matthews’ reaction, the ref may have gotten a bit too close for comfort.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I once heard a story about a coach who told his team to go get some shots up from the place on the court they expected to be shooting from during a game. And one guy ran over and took a seat on the bench and began firing up shots.
Blazers guard Wesley Matthews is in no danger of that happening to him, but just to be safe he got up a shot from the bench during last night’s pregame warm-ups…and he drilled it. (By the way, Matthews absolutely had the proper reaction here: When you make an amazing shot, just run right off the court, because it’s basically impossible to top it.)
If you didn’t see Sunday’s contest between the Warriors and Trail Blazers, cue up League Pass and grab some popcorn. It was a basketball game, folks.
Things got really good in the fourth quarter. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shined for 51 points in the second half and in the last five minutes, their beam was almost blinding. Thompson hit two dagger treys in the final minute to finish off a fantastic effort by Damian Lillard and Rip City, as Golden State escaped with a win.
But this play by Steph is worth the price of admission. He outbattles Wesley Matthews for the steal, races down court with the pill, then goes to work on Wes…and the always spunky Portland crowd.
Thomas Robinson was the No. 5 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and is on his third NBA team. It’s safe to say his career hasn’t gotten off to the start his draft position demands. Robinson’s 11.1 minutes per game this season is filled by 4.3 points and 3.8 rebounds.
But with LaMarcus Aldridge on the mend with nagging groin pains and Kevin Love coming to town Sunday, the Blazers needed every able body on the oak to chip in.
Enter the former Jayhawk T-Rob, who played over 33 minutes against the Wolves, a season-high, and recorded 14 points and a game-high and career-high 18 rebounds. He did it in electrifying fashion, treating the Moda Center to a brand of power not often seen from their frontcourt.
In the fourth quarter with the game very much in the balance, Robinson began hawking down notorious speed demon Corey Brewer, who got loose on the break. Few foresaw the pandemonium that would follow. If we didn’t know before, we know now that the Portland faithful has no problem going insane with the right nudge:
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?
BROOKLYN – Earlier this week, I spent an evening shadowing Nathaniel Butler from NBA Photos as he photographed the Trail Blazers-Nets game in Brooklyn. During the game, Butler gave me a camera and let me shoot the action. What follows are some of the images I took that night, with my thoughts and comments below each picture. These pictures have not been cropped or color-corrected or anything else. This is what I shot … for better, or for, probably mostly, worse.
As the Blazers took the floor to warm up directly in front of me, Nic Batum started hoisting 15-footers from the right wing. I picked up my camera, zoomed in a bit, half-pushed the button down to make sure the image was focused, and then fired off the shot. What I didn’t account for was that Batum would jump when he shot, so my photo chopped off his arms and the ball.
Once the game started, sure enough the Nets ran a play to get Kevin Garnett a shot at the top of the key. I saw the play developing and as soon as KG caught the ball and squared up, I took this picture. Unfortunately, as you may notice, I managed to capture all of the players out of focus. But the basket support and the fans in the front rows are crystal clear. Also, terrific job by me to cut off the shot clock. (more…)
Apparently (and fictitiously), McGee heard whispers that owning Wesley Matthews’ shot was sort of like, well, easy. After all, Matthews is a 6’5 guard coming around the corner to a waiting 7-footer with a pterodactyl wingspan.
Pick on someone your own size, he was told.
So McGee set his sights on the league’s best dunker Wednesday night.
*McNeal has yet to appear in an NBA game, so his NBA D-League stats are listed here
Missed the cut: None
Team synopsis: This team is fairly similar to the squad Wade took to the Final Four in 2003, in the sense that most of the team doesn’t really have much of an NBA future. In fact, they only qualify to participate because McNeal was recently given a 10-day contract by the Hornets. Still, Wade and Matthews are a nice 1-2 combo. (more…)
When Portland signed restricted free-agent Wesley Matthews to an offer sheet this past offseason, I wasn’t sure if they really liked him, or if they just liked to stick it to the Jazz. After all, this is the same team that signed Utah’s Paul Millsap to a large offer sheet the year before, forcing the Jazz to match (and paving the way for Carlos Boozer‘s exit from Salt Lake City).
Regardless of their intent, the signing is working out well for the Blazers. Matthews, playing in place of the injured Brandon Roy, dropped 30 points on the Grizzlies last night, every one of them needed in a 100-99 win in Memphis. With Roy’s status up in the air (Is there a more injury-cursed franchise in all of sports than Portland?), the Blazers are going to need Matthews to continue to play at this level if they want to keep up in the loaded Western Conference.
Last night, he was worth every penny.
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