When you have 13 games running on a single night, as the NBA did Wednesday, it's fairly likely that at least a couple of them will come down to the wire, producing the kind of high-stakes drama for which hoops diehards live, even when the players involved in creating said drama aren't exactly household names and the contests resolved by their plays come in mid-December with three-quarters of the season left to play. We got three such affairs last night, each wrapped up by a game-winning bucket worthy of praise, attention ... and careful scrutiny.
The question is this: Which Wednesday game-winner was best?
In the interest of providing guidance to BDL's readership in a trying time, I submit to a trusting public a new installment of Dan Devine's Inarguable Power Rankings, which identify which items in a group of things are most powerful. In this episode: Dan Devine's Inarguable Wednesday Night Game-Winner Power Rankings.
Click the jump to dig in and weigh in. And please remember, as always, that the list is the list.
5. Toney Douglas beats the buzzer from about 55 feet out to give the Houston Rockets a 3-point halftime lead over the Washington Wizards.
WHY IT RANKS WHERE IT RANKS: Because it wasn't technically a game-winner — the Wizards did retake the lead for 26 seconds in the third quarter, after all — but in a general sense, when a man whose offensive game was so catastrophic last season that he was viewed as a clear step down from both overweight Baron Davis and the late Mike Bibby is draining beyond-half-court heaves, well, it's all over but the shoutin'. The 99-93 final just confirmed what we already knew: It wasn't your night, Wiz. Having to watch James Harden drop 31 on 50 percent shooting after a full day of talking about this couldn't have been easy, either. Sorry about that.
(And yes, I'm aware that Toney's put together a real nice couple of weeks for the 10-11 Rockets, averaging about 14 points, 2.5 assists, 2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in just under 27 minutes per game off the Houston bench in December. Still: Kind of felt like a dagger.)
4. Goran Dragic twists his way to a game-winning layup over the outstretched arm of Marc Gasol with 0.5 seconds left to push the Phoenix Suns past the Memphis Grizzlies.
WHY IT RANKS WHERE IT RANKS: OK, now, to actual game-winners.
With 7.7 seconds left and the slumping Suns tied with the Western Conference bullies from Memphis, Dragic takes the inbounds pass and heads to the center of the floor, guarded by the Grizzlies' Mike Conley. The Slovenian point man dribbles right around a Marcin Gortat high screen that eats up Conley, forcing Memphis center Marc Gasol — one of the best big men in the game at defending the pick-and-roll, but still a speed/quickness mismatch against Dragic — to step up and take on-ball responsibility with just under five seconds remaining. Gasol rides Dragic to the baseline, doing a nice job of cutting off his penetration and forcing the drive into an area where Rudy Gay (checking Jared Dudley in the corner) could potentially help on the double. With just under three seconds left, Dragic is on the baseline, his back to midcourt, two Grizzles behind him, and Gasol between him and the basket. Things seem good for Memphis.
Then, Gay turns and runs away to recover on Dudley with two seconds left in the game — somewhat understandable, since you don't want to leave a 40 percent 3-point shooter all alone with the game on the line — which would be fine it, as TBJ's Trey Kerby suggested, Gasol didn't seem to forget for a split second that Goran Dragic is left-handed. Thanks to Gasol's slight overplay, Dragic was able to get back to his strong hand and scoop in a little hook/layup with five-tenths of a second remaining, which wasn't enough time for the Grizz to get level, and Phoenix broke its seven-game losing streak with an 82-80 upset of the 14-5 Grizzlies, who'd beaten the Suns by 10 in overtime just last week.
Pros: It gave Suns fans something to feel good about after a week full of Super Cool stuff like this, it came against a good defender and it's fun to watch lefties be crafty, because then you can call them "crafty lefties." Slight con: It had a bit more to do with a Memphis defensive whoops than an amazing individual play by Dragic. Third place feels right.
3. Mo Williams nails a deep 3-pointer over the defense of Danny Green at the buzzer to send the Utah Jazz past the San Antonio Spurs.
WHY IT RANKS WHERE IT RANKS: Because Williams drained the triple with Green's hand right in his face; because that sucker came from at least three or four feet behind the 3-point line; because it locked down a 99-96 win that extended the Jazz's winning streak to four and improved their home mark at the double-tough EnergySolutions Arena to 9-1; because it wiped away a pretty mammoth Tim Duncan game (22 points, 21 rebounds and six blocks in 33 minutes) like it didn't even matter; because it went through with exactly zero time remaining on the clock, which is about as perfect a game-winner as you can get.
So why isn't it higher? Because Williams called his own number rather than feeding one of his interior beasts — Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson combined for 45 points on 20-for-33 shooting and nine assists against San Antonio's front line — despite having been 2-for-8 from the floor and 0-for-3 from deep on what had been, to that point, a tough Wednesday night. It looks awesome when it works, but you can't rely on hero ball, guys.
That said: This was a pretty awesome shot over what looked to me to be pretty good defense by Green. Then again, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich totally disagreed with me, according to Lynn DeBruin of The Associated Press:
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Williams was able to get off the final shot because of a ''huge'' defensive error by Danny Green when the Jazz inbounded the ball with 6.7 seconds left.
''You got to make him drive with that amount of time,'' Popovich said. ''That's why we put a bigger guy on Mo at the end so he couldn't get a shot off. You don't step off Mo Williams. What do you think he's going to do with two seconds on the clock? Instead of getting into him, he backed off. Huge defensive error.''
Let's go out on a limb and say that, in matters of basketball precision, Pop might have a better sense of what should and should not happen than I do. Accepting that wacky premise, Green might want to be careful about making more such gooves in the future. He could find himself on a commercial flight out of town faster than he can say, "Please don't fine us $250,000."
2. Draymond Green takes the bullet feed from Jarrett Jack for a layup with 0.9 seconds left to give the Golden State Warriors a road win over the Miami Heat.
• It came on the road, whereas Dragic and Williams got their game-winners at home;
• It kept the Warriors' perfect road trip going at five games, gave them their ninth road win of the season — only San Antonio (11-3) has more — and pushed them to 9-1 against Eastern Conference teams on the season;
• The play was Shane Battier's fault, according to Shane Battier, according to Tom Haberstroh's "oral history" of the Dubs' game-winning possession;
• Heat.com's eagle-eyed Couper Moorhead noticed that the Warriors ran the same play in the first quarter — in the first minute of the game — and turned it over because Miami rotated well to defend Golden State's dual curls set, which I'm sure makes Erik Spoelstra just sick about the Warriors beating the Heat with it in the game's final second;
• Warriors coach Mark Jackson switched up the play's action after that first-quarter flameout, as HoopChalk's Jared Dubin details, creating a situation in which top offensive options David Lee and Stephen Curry would occupy the same side of the floor, demanding defenders' attention, preventing a quick rotation across the paint and creating a situation in which Green's slipped pick could leave him wide open for Jack's pass, which was on-target and handled by Green, who converted what looks like an easy layup but I'm sure felt like anything but given time and game situation.
Sharp play design, sharp decision-making by both Green and Jack, great execution by both parties ... cool stuff all around. (So long as you're not a Heat fan, I guess.)
BUT NOT QUITE COOL ENOUGH TO TAKE THE TOP SPOT:
So very, very powerful. (Getty Images)
WHY IT RANKS WHERE IT RANKS: Without electricity, none of the players would have had lights on in the arena to see the basket. Also, none of the cameras would have been working or able to record the moving images you see above. Also, none of our cable or satellite networks would have been able to transmit those images, and none of our televisions would have been able to receive them and broadcast them to our eyes. Once again, electricity proves itself to be the most powerful power there is.
And that, as they say, is that. Electricity edges Draymond Green, but JUST BARELY! If you would like to share your thoughts, or perhaps submit your own rankings, feel free to do so in the comments below, on Twitter or on our Facebook page. Please remember, however, that as always, the list is the list.
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- Goran Dragic
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- Marc Gasol