It’s About Time! Marbury Shot Greatest in Suns History?
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE Photos)
The Shot Heard Round the Playoffs
By Jim Brewer, Suns.com
Posted: April 20, 2003
For long-time Suns fans, the frustration is over.
No, not THAT frustration, but that long-lived angst of having several miraculous buzzer-beating playoff shots go for naught.
And to have two, count ‘em, TWO shots in the same game? Please excuse the Phoenix faithful while they shove their collective heart back into their chest.
Let’s harken back in Suns history to some truly improbable, stupefying, unbelievable moments that, in each case, only proved to prolong the eventual agony of a tough loss.
The Shot Heard ‘Round the World
Obviously, this one is the Queen Mother of all miracle makes, not just for the Suns but for all of NBA history. Gar Heard’s turnaround jumper from 20 feet with one tick on the clock sent Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals into its second of three dizzying overtimes. The fans in the Boston Garden, having previously rushed the court in celebration thinking the game was over, only to be rushed right off by the officials for the final second to be played, sat in stunned silence as Heard’s rainbow shot swished through the hoop. The Suns’ bench celebrated and continued the battle for 10 more hard-fought minutes. The end result was the Greatest Game Ever Played. And a Suns loss.
KJ’s Dream Dunk
Driving baseline, all 6-1 of him, it’s hard to believe that Kevin Johnson really thought he could get up and dunk in the face of one of the NBA’s all-time best shot-blocking big men. But get up and throw down on the Rockets’ Hakeem Olajuwon he did in one of the more memorable dunks in Suns – and NBA – history. It was the type of play that can change the momentum of a game, and even a series. It happened in Game 6 of the 1994 Western Conference Semifinals and was a truly incredible play in a terrific game. And a Suns loss.
King Rex for Three
The upstart Suns had parlayed a unique brand of “Small Ball” – featuring four guards, including KJ, Jason Kidd, Wesley Person and Rex Chapman – into a surprising playoff berth in 1997 against a highly regarded Seattle SuperSonics team. After the Suns split wins in Seattle, and grabbed Game 3 in Phoenix, the series stood at 2-1 with Game 4 and a chance to advance coming at America West Arena. The smaller Suns battled the Sonics until they were three points down with just a couple of ticks left on the clock. Inbounding the ball at halfcourt, Kidd lofted a pass high to the opposite side of the court as Chapman raced to receive it. Rex caught the ball as his momentum carried him toward the sideline and, in one motion, leapt and heaved a desperation three that found nothing but the bottom of the net. It sent the crowd into a frenzy and the game into overtime with a trip to the Conference Semis knocking on their door. Unfortunately, the Sonics controlled the overtime of a fantastic game. And one more time, a Suns loss.
And now… Bank On It
Struggling with their offensive flow but playing a hard-nosed defense that kept the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs from truly taking control, the Suns faced an uphill battle as they trailed by three points with 16 seconds to go. Who would take the critical three? Clutch performer Stephon Marbury, seasoned veteran Penny Hardaway, NBA All-Star and three-point threat Shawn Marion? Nope, rookie power forward Amare Stoudemire – he of the 2-for-3 “lifetime” mark from behind the arc – stepped up and banked in an improbable long-range shot with :07 left on the clock to send the game to overtime. Amazing? Yes. The most amazing shot of the night? Not even close. Just a few minutes later the Suns faced an even MORE dire situation – down two with possible NBA MVP Tim Duncan at the line, only five seconds on the clock and no timeouts. Duncan missed the free throw, the ball is batted out to an awaiting Marbury who scampers down the floor as the time runs out. With only 0:00.3 on the clock, he releases a twisting heave from 25 feet that, you guessed it, banked in as the buzzer sounded and the Spurs players and crowd looked on in disbelief. After a short, NBA-prescribed review by the officials… shot good… game over. And a Suns win.
One other thing those first three miracle shots had in common – not only did the Suns lose the game in each instance, they lost heart-breaking series and were eliminated from the playoffs.
Now, it’s far too early to tell the endgame of Amaré and Stephon’s timely trips to the bank. This series is about as far from over as a seven-game series heading into Game 2 can be. Remember, these are the heavily favored Spurs, who boast the NBA’s best regular season record and one of the best players on the planet. And that best player on the planet guy is not liable to be too happy about his 1-for-4 performance from the charity stripe at the end of the overtime, one that left the door open just a sliver for the Suns. The fact that the sliver was just enough won’t go down well in The Alamo, to be sure. But for at least the next few days and, later, in the years ahead, Suns fans finally have a clear and defining feel for what a miracle buzzer-beater can do. It can bring you to your feet. It can shock your senses. It can produce emotions that are rare in sports. And, in this case, it produced a Suns win.
It’s about time.