The Art of ... Beating the Buzzer

January 11, 2014
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Jarrett Jack
It’s the shot that anyone who’s ever played basketball – from organized hoops to backyard ball: the halfcourt heave at the (real or imaginary) buzzer.

In his first season with the Wine and Gold, guard Jarrett Jack has sunk his share of buzzer-beaters to end quarters. (He hasn’t hit a game-winner at the buzzer yet for Cleveland.) But the eight-year vet as a guy who wants the ball in his hands when the clock is winding down.

In the Cavs home opener against Brooklyn and the very next game against Charlotte, Jack canned shots at the first quarter buzzer that gave Cleveland a big early lift. In a Nov. 22 matchup in New Orleans, the Pelicans didn’t pick up the ball and Jack hit this shot to give the Cavs a nine-point edge at intermission.

On Dec. 7, Jack drilled a bomb from halfcourt that gave Cleveland the lead headed to close the third quarter. The Cavs ran off the first six points of the fourth period and wrapped up their third straight win at The Q. And in Friday night’s win over Utah, Jack hit a three-pointer at the third quarter buzzer that capped a 13-2 run. The Cavs went on to win by 13.

In today’s installment of The Art of … the Cavaliers pragmatic point guard explains the whys and wherefores or the buzzer-beater and what it can signify in the grand scheme of the game …


Is it true that a lot of players won’t attempt a quarter-ending shot because it might mess up their shooting percentage?

Jarrett Jack: A lot of dudes won’t. Let’s say you were struggling and might’ve missed your first three shots. That fourth shot – you don’t want to make that a 50-foot heave while you’re going faster than normal, shooting off balance from some crazy distance.

But you never know with those shots. Sometimes they go in and they make for good highlights. And you have games where you win by one point, and that shot could have been the difference – you making it or you missing it. So I always look at it as an opportunity.

So what’s your overall philosophy on taking that shot?

Jack: If you make it, that’s great. And if you don’t, you’re gonna shoot the ball again, and who’s to say that shot was going to go in anyway. I guess it’s a way of being aggressive, so to speak.

Do you watch the clock, or do you have a clock in your head that starts running on the out-of-bounds?

Jack: No, I look at the clock. I want to see how much time I have, try to gauge the defense, what crease I can get (the shot) from, a good angle. It’s usually something going to my right because I kind of float by. It’s tougher shooting it with your left, because you have to shoot across your body. So that’s what I try to do.

What can that shot mean to a team in the context of a game?

Jack: It’s like a big momentum-changer, especially if it’s going into the fourth quarter. Say you’re playing well, that could be a cherry on top of everything. If you’re not, it might turn things around. That’s the approach that I take.

Is it something you practice?

Jack: We mess around, shooting half-court shots every now and again. But I always – I don’t know why – have had a knack for making them.

Say Coach Brown walks into practice and says practice is cancelled if someone can hit a halfcourt shot. Are you the guy who takes it?

Jack: I’m definitely putting my hand up for that! That’s happened before – in Portland, Coach McMillan did that. I made it to end practice.

What’s the best one you’ve ever made in a game?

Jack: Hmm. I don’t know. The one I made last year in Indiana, I thought that one was just crazy just because of how I shot it. I thought that one was cool. I shot it from the other three-point line – nothing but net, no rim, straight through. And I shot it (leaning back, admiring it) and stared at it the whole time and it went in. The whole team came running to me. It was ending the third quarter, going into the fourth.

I’ve still never hit a game-winner from that distance. But that one is definitely at the top of my list.

For fans who think it’s just a “heave” – there really is a skill to it, correct?

Jack: It’s just trying to have “touch.’ It sounds crazy – having touch shooting a halfcourt shot, but that’s what it is, really.

Not like that guy in Miami on the SportsCenter commercial …

Jack: No, hell no! He couldn’t make that again in a million years. (That was crazy, though.)