Horry Scale: Greek Freak delivers first game-winner as Bucks stun Knicks
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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There seemed something pre-ordained about the final play of the Milwaukee Bucks’ clock-beating victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The hero of the moment, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has been as hot and in the headlines as any player in the NBA recently (you did see that cover photo and story in Sports Illustrated, right?).
Antetokounmpo, a.k.a, “The Greek Freak” among those afraid of difficult pronunciations, is making a push for his first All-Star appearance. He is stuffing scoresheet categories on a nightly basis – averaging 23.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists – while serving as Milwaukee’s primary offense creator. And he remains heavily involved at the defensive end, which played a role in setting up his big final basket.
It was Antetokounmpo who defended New York’s Derrick Rose on an inbounds play and knocked the ball off Rose out of bounds with 8.6 seconds left. The referees initially ruled the ball was off Milwaukee, but Antetokounmpo immediately twirled his long index finger in the air, a reminder that the play would be reviewed. Result? Bucks ball.
Then it was time for hero ball. Or in this case, should we say gyro ball on the Horry Scale?
DIFFICULTY: The hardest part might have been catching the inbounds pass from rookie Malcolm Brogdon. New York’s Lance Thomas bodied up Antetokounmpo for the entire play, before he caught the ball on the right wing and while he backed Thomas toward the top of the lane. Greg Monroe set a screen up high at about six seconds for deep threat Jason Terry, then dove toward the basket to pull Joakim Noah away from Antetokounmpo and Thomas. Neither Rose nor Courtney Lee dug down to help, though, even as the clock ticked past three seconds. The likelihood of a successful pass, catch and shot from Terry or Brogdon was slim. But then, this was Knicks defense.
GAME SITUATION: The Bucks squandered several chances in the final minute or so, beginning with Antetokounmpo missing one of two free throws with 1:07 left. He missed a fadeaway jumper in the paint to tie with 35 seconds left. And when Monroe was fouled on the rebound, the Bucks center missed one of his foul shots as well. And Jabari Parker seemed to muff Milwaukee’s last best chance when he mistimed his jump and bungled a defensive rebound at 9.7 seconds. But then, New York did not score over the final 2:17 of the game, missing its final five field-goal attempts and committing the fateful inbounds turnover. It seemed pretty clear Antetokounmpo, who had 25 points and 13 boards to that point, was going to get the last shot.
CELEBRATION: After the 6-foot-11 Bucks forward faded across the foul line to hit his game-winner, his momentum kept him going downcourt. Parker, Monroe and Brogdon gave chase and wrapped him up about the same time as Milwaukee reserves John Henson and Steve Novak, along with injured Khris Middleton joined the scrum. The backdrop, from at least one camera’s view, was a baseline crowd of disappointed Knicks fans. Another camera caught Carmelo Anthony – the inbounder who couldn’t get the ball cleanly to Rose – with his hands on his hips, shaking his head. The Bucks couldn’t go too crazy, since they face New York again on Friday back in Milwaukee (no bulletin board material, please). But they did pull this off in what we’re constantly reminded is the “world’s most famous sports arena.”
GRADE: Thomas was a load on Antetokounmpo, though he ultimately couldn’t match the Bucks hero’s length and view of the rim. The victory nudged Milwaukee to two games over .500, matching its high-water mark of the season and providing a little cushion in the clotted East. And the Knicks get to seek revenge in 48 hours. That all adds up to a solid FOUR HORRYS.
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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