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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GAME SITUATION: Down eight inside the final three minutes Friday at State Farm Arena, the Hawks rallied and survived a pair of high-percentage misses at the buzzer by Scottie Barnes to force overtime against the Raptors. Once there, Atlanta’s De’Andre Hunter found himself at the line with 8.1 seconds remaining, needing two free throws to secure a commanding four-point lead. He missed both before Toronto’s OG Anunoby sank a pair of his own to tie the game at 122-122 with 3.8 left. With no timeouts remaining, the Hawks needed a miracle — and they got it, courtesy of Trae Young’s alley-oop just inside halfcourt to the shockingly wide-open AJ Griffin for the win.
— NBA (@NBA) November 20, 2022
DIFFICULTY: Young’s lob to Griffin required skill and poise to execute, and both did their part with the pinpoint pass and clean catch-and-finish, respectively. But a point-blank layup at the rim, even of the alley-oop variety, is pretty much the dream scenario given the daunting circumstances: Down by two, no timeouts, the full 94 feet to go and only 3.8 seconds to do it.
Enter the Raptors. This one’s going to sting for a while. They couldn’t have reasonably asked for a better end-game situation to defend, and they somehow gifted the Hawks with a gimme layup. Pressing on the inbound, they committed the catastrophic error of pushing four defenders in the frontcourt with just one man back to defend the rim: Anunoby, who was forced to pick his poison when Young immediately pivoted and sped into the frontcourt, creating a 2-on-1 as Griffin filled the opposite lane.
Anunoby instinctively stepped up to meet Young, which gave Griffin an unimpeded run to the rim — provided, of course, his All-Star point guard could find him. Young did, and all the rookie had to do was rise, catch and lay the ball softly into the bucket like he was still in the warmup line.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Griffin said. “I had a feeling they were going to pressure up. I saw it and broke early. I said, ‘I’ll just sneak up behind them.’ That’s exactly what happened.”
CELEBRATION: Griffin didn’t seem like he was sure if his shot counted or not until teammate Clint Capela came bounding over for a celebratory chest bump. Keep watching the replay, however, and you’ll see Anunoby come into frame, framed by euphoric Hawks players, where his blank visage provided the ultimate summation of Friday’s remarkable finish. We couldn’t believe it either, man.
GRADE: It’s one thing when your only play is to catch the ball, chuck it up and pray to the gods of luck and probability. What the Hawks had to surmount was much more challenging. With a healthy assist from Toronto’s tactical meltdown, they could not have done much better. Maybe a windmill dunk would have been cooler, and more memorable? But not any more effective