Horry Scale

Horry Scale: Jimmy Butler's jumper lifts Bulls past Nets

Fran Blinebury

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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It happens.

Sometimes that one more special present gets lost in the shuffle, forgotten in the excitement of the holiday, tucked into the back of a closet until a few days later.

So here came Jimmy Butler, three nights after Christmas, with a gift-wrapped beauty all tied up in a pretty bow.

The game with the Nets at the United Center was also tied up at 99-all when topped off a post-holiday spectacular game by draining a step-back jumper from the top of the key as the horn sounded, just the way Robert Horry — patron saint of last-second cool — used to win games.

After nine losses in 12 games, the Bulls have now won two in a row and this time Butler definitely did it. He made 14 of 29 shots on the night to finish a breathtaking all-around effort with 40 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals.

It was Butler’s first career buzzer-beating shot and made him just the fourth player to combine 40 points and a game-winning buzzer-beater in the last 10 seasons. He joins Bulls teammate Dwyane Wade (2008-09), Blake Griffin (2014-15) and Anthony Davis (2014-15). He was also sensational down the stretch when the Bulls climbed out of a 97-90 hole in the last three minutes. He scored nine of Chicago’s last 11 points and assisted on the other basket in the final 2:24.

One thing to get straight: The Horry Scale does not measure only a game-winning shot; the Horry Scale measures several facets of a Game-Winning Buzzer-Beater. So we’re talking about not only the shot, but also the play that creates the shot, the situation and the drama, the celebrations … basically, everything surrounding and including the shot. In short, it’s about the total package.

DIFFICULTY — Truth is, it wasn’t a tough shot at all. Not for a guy who was rolling like a boulder down a hill in the fourth quarter. Not when Brooklyn’s so-called defender Bojan Bogdanovic permitted Butler to catch the inbounds pass uncontested from Michael Carter-Williams. Especially not when Bogdanovic gave him a six-foot cushion of space, then bit hard on a jab step that allowed Butler to just rise up and bury the kill-shot into the bottom of the net.

GAME SITUATION — There’s always less pressure when the game is tied and Butler had the Nets back on their heels literally and figuratively with his house-on-fire play down the stretch.

CELEBRATION — It hardly looked like the first time Butler performed such heroics as he drilled the jumper, then turned and strutted toward mid-court. Nikola Mirotic raised his arms in triumph out on the left wing. Doug McDermott was the first teammate to reach Butler for a hug, then the rest of the Bulls arrived to dance him right off the court.

GRADE — Considering the tied game and the lack of any real defense, it’s difficult to go too high up on the scale. But it was capper to an all-around great game by Butler. So in the spirit of the season we’re giving him three Horrys.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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