A heads up play by Buddy Hield beat the buzzer to sink the Nuggets in Denver.
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 Nuggets had the ball and a chance to win in overtime. They never got that chance.
Nikola Jokic, one of the most trustworthy decision-makers in the league, was immediately pressured and had the ball stripped by Harrison Barnes near halfcourt.
As the final five seconds ticked away, Barnes rose for what could have been a game-winning jam. Will Barton contested, and the ball popped free. For an instant, it seemed the scoreless chaos would produce nothing more than a second overtime.
Except to Buddy Hield, who trailed the play at top speed, soared high, and banked in a one-handed tip shot as time expired. The Kings left Denver euphoric over their dramatic season-opening 124-122 win, while the Nuggets — fresh off a run to the Western Conference Finals last season — simply looked stunned at the completely unexpected outcome.
Hield’s momentum almost didn’t allow him to corral the ball, which he still managed to do with just one hand. Normally not a yeoman on the offensive boards, the 28-year-old still had enough instinctual touch and wherewithal to place an awkward push shot from midair off the glass. And remember, all this came amidst an absolutely insane sequence of play. Replicate the shot yourself in a game of H-O-R-S-E. You’ll miss at least as many as you make.
Opening night energy is weird to begin with. Throw in the unusual timing of this particular season, the fact the game was already one overtime deep, and the Denver altitude, and you’d forgive the Kings for playing conservatively or even botching their last defensive stand. They didn’t, and in a slightly shortened season, every win (or loss) like this in the loaded Western Conference is huge.
Hield got Sacramento the win and got the heck out of there, with his teammates chasing the jubilant shooting guard all the way through the tunnel. Everything about the mock escape spoke of the Kings stealing the game, which they absolutely did. Incredibly appropriate.
Sacramento owns the longest playoff drought in the league (14 years). Their biggest offseason change was losing Bogdan Bogdnanovic in free agency. But that opens up more time for Hield, a development that paid off on night one of the new season. Sacramento is 1-0 in the West, a conference where one game can be the difference. 4 Horrys.