On a Monday night chock full of awesome NBA action, one game separated itself from the pack — and, surprisingly enough, it featured teams that entered the evening 3-4 and 1-5, with nary a signature marquee-level star appearing on either roster. When you treat fans to 63 minutes of competitive, compelling, fun-to-watch basketball, as the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors did, the records don't matter as much as the clutch moments, the dramatic turns and the big shots. This game had plenty of all three — especially that last one.
But which of the game's big shots was most dope? 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 Big Shots From Jazz/Raptors Power Rankings.
Click the jump to behold the full list. And please remember, as always, that the list is the list.
5. Paul Millsap strokes the above-the-break 3-pointer to give the Jazz a two-possession lead with 2:15 remaining in triple overtime.
WHY IT RANKS WHERE IT RANKS: Because it put the Jazz up by four after nearly 61 minutes of play and really took the wind out of the sails of a flat-out gassed Raptors squad, which had been lingering down one but would never come within hailing distance again, as a combination of dead-legged front-rimmed jumpers and a couple more Utah buckets sealed a crazy, hard-fought 140-133 road victory.
More than that, though, because it represents one of the more amazing things about Millsap — the 6-foot-8, seventh-year forward entered this season as a 24.3 percent career 3-point shooter, but he is a stone-cold marksman late in games. Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus ran the numbers: Millsap hits triples at a 39 percent clip in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime periods, and at just a 22 percent clip in all other circumstances. Talk about a feel for the moment. Millsap hit three of his four 3-point tries Monday night, all of them coming in the extra sessions, en route to a Jazz-high 34 points (on 11-for-16 shooting) to go with nine rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and just one turnover in nearly 44 minutes of action.
4. John Lucas III calmly steps into one after a handoff from Andrea Bargnani and drills a 24-footer to tie the game with seven seconds left in double overtime.
WHY IT RANKS WHERE IT RANKS: Because at a juncture where it would've made some sense for the Raptors to just go away — after squandering an 11-point lead with less than six minutes left in the fourth, having seen a last-possession shot to win it in the first overtime go wanting, having played nearly an hour of basketball short-handed thanks to injuries to Kyle Lowry, Alan Anderson and Landry Fields, feeling the weight of a seemingly interminable game that they'd led from tip through the final fourth-quarter buzzer, etc. — there's just something kind of magic about how matter-of-fact this restatement of purpose was.
Lucas — who, while a Raps locker-room favorite, had entered the game with a 2-for-25 shooting mark on the season (a crisp 8 percent, for those scoring at home) — takes the ball after Jose Calderon inbounds to Bargnani, then simply hoists and drains a bomb to keep the dance marathon hummin'. It was his only made 3-pointer of the night, accounting for nearly half of his seven points in 14 minutes off the Toronto bench. Of course. Why not?
After the game, Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan discussed the absurdity of the moment with Eric Koreen of the National Post:
"It got to a point where it was funny. I had to laugh," DeRozan said. "When Lucas hit that three, I just looked at that scoreboard and started laughing."
We suspect the Jazz found it a bit less funny, especially after Utah point guard Mo Williams' hell-bent-for-leather drive for the win resulted in a Dominic McGuire block, no points and the need for a third OT.
3. DeMar DeRozan drives the lane and hammers home a dunk to put the Raptors up two with 23 seconds left in the first overtime period.
WHY IT RANKS WHERE IT RANKS: Because while jumpers are great, dunks are frequently more awesome and powerful, and DeRozan's final-half-minute stuff was emblematic of a special night for the recently extended swingman. With new offensive focal point Lowry still on the shelf, DeRozan had to be Toronto's primary scoring option, and with three of coach Dwane Casey's main minutes-soaking contributors sidelined, DeRozan had to do more of everything ... and he did, turning in one of the best performances of his NBA career to date.
DeRozan led all scorers with 37 points on 16-for-33 shooting, adding eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in 60 minutes of basketball. He became just the 11th player in the past 28 seasons to log an hour or more of playing time in a single game, the second Raptor (following Vince Carter) and the first since Jamal Crawford in January 2009.
Every second of that hour was needed with Casey's bench so thin, especially after Linas Kleiza fouled out early in the first overtime period, and DeRozan did just about everything he could — he worked in the post, he worked on defense, he worked in transition, he tried to shoulder the load. He wasn't perfect, and he won't be anytime soon, but it was a mammoth effort — as was beating his man off the dribble, elevating over shot-blocking help defenders and tomahawking one in your 50th minute of full-tilt play — and had to be a heartening display for Raps fans hoping that this is the year DeRozan becomes a legitimate top scoring option.
2. Al Jefferson drains a 3-pointer with two seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 104 and send it into overtime.
WHY IT RANKS WHERE IT RANKS: Because it's about as frequent an occurrence as Halley's Comet — as Trey Kerby noted at The Basketball Jones, this was just the second made 3-pointer of Jefferson's eight-plus-year NBA career, and considering the other came in a breezy 15-point win over the Detroit Pistons back in March, I'd say this one was a bit more important. (He did hit that one with four seconds left in the game, though, so it seems pretty clear that coach Tyrone Corbin should rely on Big Al as a late-game sniper.)
Despite the rarity of the achievement, Jefferson wasn't nervous in letting it fly — at least, not according to what he told Ian Harrison of The Associated Press:
"I knew we needed a 3," Jefferson said. "I just set my feet [and] let it go. The ball wanted to tease me for a while but it finally dropped. I knew then that if I hit a 3 to send us to overtime, we've got to go win it."
And so they did, thanks in large part to Jefferson's 24 points, 17 rebounds, three assists and two steals in 49 minutes of work.
Another thing that helped Al's 3-ball climb our charts — it elicited this reaction from bench-bound Jazz big man Enes Kanter, captured by SB Nation's eagle-eyed Mike Prada:
Anytime you can send the game to overtime and make a huge Turkish dude look like he's in the middle of a dance routine that's supposed to be sensual but that he isn't particularly thrilled about performing, you're virtually assured of a high DDIPR finish.
BUT NOT THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE FINISH, however. That honor, as you likely suspected, goes to:
WHY DOES IT RANK 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 there you have it. If you would like to share your thoughts, or perhaps submit your own ranking system, 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.