DENVER (AP)—Was anybody really surprised to see Robert Horry hit another big shot in the playoffs?
“He’s been doing it his whole career,” Denver center Marcus Camby said. “He’s a guy who you don’t see too much during the regular season but come end of the season, playoff time, he’s always there.”
Horry, whose penchant for coming through under pressure during the playoffs has earned him the nickname “Big Shot,” added to his long resume of clutch postseason performances Saturday night.
He helped the San Antonio Spurs grab a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series with the Nuggets when he stole the inbound pass from J.R. Smith late in the third quarter, sprinted to the right corner, spun and snapped the net with a 3-pointer.
“Any other team, a player does that, you might wonder what is that guy doing? What play is that? That’s a bonehead play,” Spurs forward Michael Finley said Sunday. “But when Robert does it, whether he makes it or misses it, we accept it because, again, it’s Robert being Robert.”
Horry’s big play sparked an 11-3 run—which included another 3 by Horry— that put the Spurs on the road to a 96-91 win with Game 4 on Monday night in Denver.
“Pressure can make a diamond,” Horry said. “Pressure makes me play better because I don’t want to let my teammates or my fans down, and that makes me play extra hard.”
His coach still marvels at the 36-year-old playmaker’s uncanny ability to seize the moment.
“I honestly do, I don’t know why I do but he keeps doing it,” Gregg Popovich said. “He can screw up, miss an assignment, do a lot of things. But when it comes down to making a big play, he’s kind of like (Manu) Ginobili in that way. He’ll make a steal, he’ll get a block, he’ll make a shot, he’ll get an offensive rebound just when you need it. He just seems to come up with that sort of thing.”
Before the series started, Nuggets coach George Karl wondered if Horry still had some magic left, and Horry delivered an emphatic yes in Game 3.
“I don’t think it’s something that you can go into the gym and teach a player to be like Robert Horry,” Finley said. “I just think it’s his DNA. It’s in his makeup. It’s what he’s been doing all his career and when you’ve been doing it all your career, it breeds confidence. And he has so much confidence in himself and in his game.”
Horry’s latest heroics came at the expense of Smith, a sharpshooter whose defensive liabilities and propensity for silly mistakes have kept his minutes to a minimum in this series.
“I tried to pass to Allen (Iverson),” Smith said, “but Robert Horry was right there.”
“Horry’s always lurking back there, causing havoc,” Camby said.
Asked if he had to have a chat with Smith on Sunday about his big mistake, Karl retorted: “Just one?”
Smith had several gaffes over a two minute, 10-second stretch that began with the game tied at 64 and ended with the Spurs in control of the series.
After his inbounds pass was stolen by Horry, Smith got a steal of his own but instead of dishing to Allen Iverson for an easy basket, he went to the hoop himself and Horry got the block and the ball.
With Smith stumbling over Iverson, the Spurs had a 5-on-3 break and Finley sank a 3-pointer. Smith’s three-point play moments later atoned for some of his blunders, but Horry hit another 3 to give the Spurs a 75-67 lead after three quarters.
Surprisingly, Smith came back out to start the fourth and was whistled for a flagrant foul for shoving Ginobili to the floor. Ginobili’s two free throws made it 77-67.
“We told him, you know, that wasn’t what cost us the ball game,” Camby said. “I think collectively we all didn’t do our parts and it resulted in a loss. But you’ve got to take the good with the bad and he understands that. He’s a young player.”
And the latest one to find himself on the wrong side of Horry’s postseason heroics.