A reminder on The Horry Scale: It breaks down 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 night in November?) and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, named for the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.
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A buzzer beat as well? Sure, why not. Add it to the list.
Another day, another entry for the MVP candidacy of Russell Westbrook, who Sunday moved on from merely owning games to single-handedly determining the look of the Western Conference playoffs with a three-pointer as time expired to give the Thunder a 106-105 win over the Nuggets in Denver that also included breaking a 56-year-old record for the most triple-doubles in a season.
The shot eliminated the Nuggets from the playoffs, locking the Trail Blazers in as No. 8 in in the West and a first-round matchup with the Warriors starting Saturday or Sunday.
And gave Westbrook 50 points, along with 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
While scoring the Thunder’s final 15 points.
Along with passing Oscar Robertson in single-season triple-doubles, 42.
It was an outrageously impactful day even by Westbrook standards, the latest installment in a flurry of big games as part of the bid to win what should be a very tight race for MVP. He just shouldn’t expect much popular support from Denver.
DIFFICULTY: It would have been tough for mortals because of the clock and the defensive pressure from Jamal Murray, who seemed to have stretched his right arm to where his hand was almost touching the ball at the release. But not Westbrook. He made it look like just another jumper from about 10 feet behind the three-point line on the left side. Not off balance. Not a wild shot. Completely ice-cold under control. So Russ, in other words.
GAME SITUATION: Westbrook secured the record-breaking triple-double with his 10th assist with 4:17 remaining. The Thunder were already headed to the first round against the Rockets, No. 6 Oklahoma City headed to No. 3 Houston next weekend. But OKC and Westbrook still made the finish matter, especially to Portland and Denver, when the Thunder came out of a timeout down 105-103 with 2.9 seconds remaining. Kyle Singler in-bounded the ball to Steven Adams a couple steps above the arc. Adams flipped a short pass to Westbrook, who got the shot off with a little more than a second remaining with a quick release and no dribble.
CELEBRATION: Westbrook started to backpedal as soon as soon as he landed, before the shot went through. He was all the way to the free-throw line at the other end by the time Thunder teammates caught up. Once there, Westbrook jumped again and swung his right arm hard in celebration just before being mobbed.
GRADE: It was the whole scene, an exclamation point to a historic day, not just that Westbrook delivered again. And the playoff implications, pushing the Nuggets off the edge. Maybe it even tipped an undecided voter or two in Westbrook’s direction for the MVP, even if it does seem strange to go to one game as the difference maker. That much was in play, though. Five Horrys.