Horry Scale

Horry Scale: Devin Booker comes through again for the Phoenix Suns

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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The climactic finish?

Sure. That belonged to Devin Booker too.

Really, though, it was the entire Saturday night of 36 points in 35 minutes while making 12 of 20 field goals and all 10 attempts from the line, capped by the one-on-one move and the jumper to beat the buzzer that gave the Suns a 100-98 victory over the Mavericks in Dallas.

The ending was fitting in a lot of ways – Booker asserting himself again during what has been a good stretch, Booker wanting the moment when so much of the 2016-17 for Phoenix has been about looking for signs of potential starting to mold into wins, Booker keeping the Suns in the game and then carrying them one last time.

In the 10 games before Saturday, he was averaging 19.1 points, slightly down from his season-long average, but shooting 46 percent in a significant improvement he hoped to ride through the final weeks of the regular season, just as he had a big second half in 2015-16. The previous two outings resulted in 23 and 25 points, one of which included six rebounds and the other six assists.

Dealing the Mavericks’ playoff hopes a setback made Booker the only player to hit a pair of buzzer-beaters this season. Plus, the Suns lead the league with four such victories, two more than anyone else.

DIFFICULTY: Not just a tough shot, but a tough four seconds. And it was all on Booker, from as he held the ball near the Mavericks logo at center court to looking to create an opportunity without any indication he would consider passing, and then making the final move. He started the penetration, slammed on the breaks at the top of the free-throw circle, spun to his left and in the same motion elevated for the fall-away from about 19 feet away. Swish.

GAME SITUATION: Booker had already made game-tying baskets twice in the final two minutes, part of scoring 25 of his 36 points in the second half. When Wesley Matthews’ three-point missed for the Mavericks, the Suns – and Booker – had the chance at one last clutch shot.

CELEBRATION: Booker’s momentum from the fall-away was already carrying him backward. He simply kept going, back pedaling across half court, away from the Phoenix bench and leaving the Suns to catch up to him as he turned and headed to the far corner, apparently bound for the locker room. Teammates did, of course. Players broke from the bench and various spots on the court in celebration of the final chapter of a big night.

GRADE: Suns-Mavericks had some actual meaning, a statement no one would have dared to make a month ago and maybe even a few weeks ago. But Dallas had won four in a row as part of a serious push into the playoff picture. The buzzer-beater meant something – and could end up meaning a lot more in the final days of the regular season. Plus, degree of difficulty on the shot itself. Four Horrys.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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