Horry Scale

Horry Scale: Phoenix Suns rookie Tyler Ulis stuns Boston Celtics

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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In the two years since they shipped him to the Celtics just under the wire at the trade deadline, Isaiah Thomas has managed to smother any perceived anger at the Suns organization.

“It’s like they gave me a Christmas gift sending me away,” Thomas told reporters on Saturday morning. “So I thank them.”

Then on Sunday evening, Thomas and teammate Jae Crowder did the polite thing and chipped in on a return gift for the Suns.

Leading by two with 11.2 seconds left in the game at Talking Stick Arena, Crowder first allowed Eric Bledsoe to drive past him for the tying layup. Then Crowder tossed a lazy inbounds pass that Thomas foolishly tried to let bounce to avoid losing time off the clock.

That opened the door for rookie Marquese Chriss to knock the ball away and when it went straight to Tyler Ulis, the other rook knew exactly what to do. Ulis knocked down a 3-pointer at the horn for a 109-106 Phoenix win that was the third in a row for the suddenly hot Suns and earned himself a starring role here on the Horry Scale.

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: As our man Suns analyst Eddie Johnson said on the telecast, Chriss did the dirty work by making the steal. Ulis has the easy part of the job. He just gathered in the loose ball, took one dribble and let fly with the dead-aim 3-pointer in front of the Suns’ bench. It was a wide open a shot as you’re ever going to get in that situation and the only defender was the miniature 5-foot-9 Thomas trying to run at Ulis from too far away.

GAME SITUATION: The pressure in the Horry Scale is always ratched higher up when a team is trailing. In this case, Thomas made one of two throws to give the Celtics a 106-104 lead with 11.2 seconds left to play. Then Bledsoe’s driving layup tied the score. Chriss then stole the errant inbounds pass from Crowder by tipping it to Ulis, who drained the winning bucket.

CELEBRATION: Ulis took the shot just a few fee in front of the Suns’ bench and then drifted seamlessly into the welcoming arms of his teammates and assistant coaches who joyously swallowed him up in the celebration.

GRADE: Considering the tied game and the fact that the only thing missing from the Celtics’ virtually gift-wrapped turnover was a pretty bow, we’re giving Ulis three Horrys for his heroics.

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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