Harris' Buzzer-Beater Overcomes Odds
Feb. 23, 2009
by Ben Couch - NJNETS.COM
East Rutherford, N.J. — Devin Harris crossed midcourt with Andre Iguodala pressed to him tighter than the clinging hope of a 1.8-second miracle.
The New Jersey Nets' star guard seemed bottled up by the Philadelphia 76ers' swingman, ball bobbling away as odds exponentially increased with every inch of airspace between it and Harris' hands.
But Harris bolted forward, snatching the ball out of the air. He transferred the downward momentum into a shooting motion, flinging the sphere with wicked backspin in a low-arcing line drive that swished cleanly through the hoop as the arena exploded. The shot was waved off on the floor, causing a tense 2 1/2-minute replay review by the officials, during which Harris stood well away from the crowd surrounding the monitors atop the scorer's table.
When replays clearly showed the ball had barely escaped from Harris' fingertips, the call was reversed, awarding the Nets (25-32) a 98-96 victory and snapping a five-game losing streak as success shredded improbablity's tightly woven grasp.
"Now wasn't that fun?" asked Nets coach Lawrence Frank, as he entered the postgame press conference at the IZOD Center.
Harris unknowingly agreed minutes later in the locker room:
"All I can say is that it was a fun game to play in," Harris said. "Obviously, the last couple of shots of the game were incredible. The one with .001 seconds left I guess is the most key one, because that won the game, but it was definitely hard fought. It was just a wild shot."
The buzzer-beating game-winner -- Harris' second this season -- capped a virtuoso performance by the first-time All-Star, who sliced through the Sixers' (27-28) defense at will. Harris scored 39 points on 11-of-22 shooting, hitting 5-of-9 three-pointers and 12-of-14 free throws, adding eight assists and two steals to his line. He offset four turnovers, the last of which was a pass to Philly's Andre Miller with 20.6 seconds left that would have been backbreaking had Miller not split a pair of free throws.
Vince Carter followed with a finger roll that tied the game at 95, 13.2 ticks remaining. The Sixers ran the clock down to 1.8 seconds before Harris fouled Iguodala, who missed a free throw and sank the second prior to Harris' heroics. The shot offered redemption for Harris, who clanked his last buzzer-beating attempt, a wide-open 16-foot jumper against the Toronto Raptors on January 28th.
"It's definitely a relief," Harris said. "Hopefully they'll continue to come to me in the fourth, which I hope they will. You take this one, stow it away and move forward from here."
Harris' night started out aggressive, with a drive-and-kick assist to Yi Jianlian that fittingly opened the Nets' scoring with a triple. He missed a jumper, hit a pair of free throws after being fouled on a drive and first showed signs of a breakout with back-to-back three-pointers at the six-minute mark, preventing a 10-point deficit from growing.
Playing alongside the second unit for much of the second quarter, Harris dropped in nine points as Keyon Dooling popped off for 13, shooting 3-of-4 from deep and 5-of-8 overall. The duo's offensive onslaught, combined with defensive pressure that forced seven turnovers, pushed the Nets to a 51-51 halftime tie.
"Tonight was one of those nights where we needed a boost from the bench," Dooling said. "And we came in, we provided it with my shooting, everybody else's defense and rebounding -- the little things. Sean Williams, who hadn't played in a while, came in and was a presence on the defensive end. It was a good team win, and when Devin's playing at a level like that, we're pretty good."
The third quarter most proved Harris' worth, with his 14 points topping any teammate's total by 10. Though he shot 3-of-8 from the field, he sank two of four threes, nailed all six of his free throws and even drew a charge from Thaddeus Young.
Entering the fourth, the Nets trailed by one, 75-74, and the teams traded baskets throughout. The Sixers couldn't extend their lead to more than seven, and the Nets even took a brief one-point lead 35.3 seconds from the finish when Bobby Simmons hit a three-pointer while being fouled. But he missed the free throw and Philly rookie Marreese Speights hit a hook, setting up Harris' turnover and the game's closing sequence.
After Iguodala's free throw, Simmons sprinted along the baseline before inbounding to Harris. He turned upcourt into Iguodala, hoping for the best against his own expectations.
"In that situation, you're trying to draw the foul, but obviously they never give it to you," Harris said. "I figured I better just heave it down there and give it a chance. It was an impossible angle with a guy hanging all over me. It was just a wild shot and I don't know how it went in."
Physics. Or fate.
Just forget the math.
NOTE: Starting for the first time in four games since returning from a broken pinkie, Yi Jianlian tallied seven points, six rebounds, two steals and a block in 30 minutes ... The Nets have won or split the season series with Philadelphia in five of the last six years ... The Nets are now 8-1 when Harris scores 30-or-more points.