The playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers led Wednesday night's matchup with the lowly Sacramento Kings from nearly the opening tip, but a determined second-half charge led by center DeMarcus Cousins (22 of his game-high 30 points after intermission) and rookie point guard Ray McCallum (15 of his 23 in the second half) had Mike Malone's team holding a one-point lead with 14.8 seconds to go. Blazers coach Terry Stotts has been a dynamo when it comes to drawing up plays out of timeouts this season, and he set up something both simple and special to generate a good look at a pivotal time:
As Nicolas Batum prepared to inbound, wings Dorell Wright and Wesley Matthews cut from their respective positions at the right and left wings to the opposite corner of the court, putting Wright behind the 3-point arc in the left corner and Matthews in the same spot on the right side. Point guard Damian Lillard cut around a LaMarcus Aldridge screen from the paint up above the 3-point line to receive the inbounds pass, then quickly moved into a high screen-and-roll with Aldridge that nailed the rookie McCallum, leaving Lillard one-on-one with Cousins on a drive.
The Sacramento center did well to move his feet with the All-Star point guard, steering Lillard toward the sideline without losing much ground, but as Lillard went under the basket and looked to be in some trouble, the outlet option on the drive popped into focus. After having slid along the baseline and slightly out of bounds behind Kings defender Reggie Evans while Batum occupied the left corner, Wright popped back to the corner as Batum circled to his right. Derrick Williams tracked Batum back to the top of the key and Evans stayed put in the lane to be able to contest a potential Lillard layup; this left Wright wide open in the corner.
"I knew that DWright had a four man guarding him, and bigs like to come back, they always find their way into the paint," Lillard (19 points, 10 assists, five rebounds) said after the game, according to Mike Tokito of The Oregonian. "It's natural for them, and that's exactly what happened, and DWright came open in the corner."
The Kings had a chance to respond, but McCallum's step-back 21-footer over Lillard came up short, making Wright's triple the deciding bucket in a 100-99 win that improved Portland to 51-28 on the season, drawing them within 1 1/2 games of the Houston Rockets for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.
It was Wright's only bucket of the game — he finished with three points on 1 for 5 shooting from the floor, including a 1 for 4 mark from deep, to go with four rebounds, two assists and two steals in just under 16 minutes off the Portland bench. While that might make Wright seem an unlikely hero, teammate Nicolas Batum sure looked confident that the jumper was true before it even left Wright's hand:
(It's a good thing for Batum that the shot went in. We could've had a real Swaggy P situation on our hands.)
While Batum was right to have some confidence in Wright's marksmanship — Dorell's a 40.8 percent shooter from the left corner over the course of his 10-year career, according to NBA.com's shot charts — the shooter himself confirmed after the game that this isn't exactly something he's done that often:
Well, it's never too late to try something new, especially when it gets you off the hook at home. More from Tokito:
"Now I don't have to hear nothing bad from my 6-year-old son because I'm pretty sure he was paying attention, and he would have told me I lost the game for us if I didn't make the shot," Wright said.
The lesson, as always: It's nice to silence the critics, even if they're first-graders.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, feel free to check it out elsewhere, thanks to the NBA.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Dorell Wright
- Nicolas Batum
- Sacramento Kings
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Damian Lillard