The 2014 NBA postseason is apparently the time for rare basketball events to become commonplace. The playoffs have seen a run on four-point plays, some of which have come in huge moments. In the ongoing conference finals, it appears as if unlikely split-second tip-ins are on trend.
In Tuesday night's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson earned attention for beating the halftime buzzer with a tip-in off an out-of-bounds lob with only 0.1 seconds on the clock. Just one day later, Nick Collison of the Oklahoma City Thunder has come through with another 0.1-second finish that looks even more impressive.
With 9:12 left in the second quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, big man Tiago Splitter swatted a short shot from Reggie Jackson out of bounds. The Thunder retained possession, but they had only 0.1 seconds on the shot clock to try to score. By NBA rules, a player can only score via tip-in with 0.3 seconds or less. Their options were pretty limited.
As the Pacers showed on Tuesday, most teams throw a lob near the basket in such a situation. Derek Fisher, however, made his inbounds pass to Collison when the forward was on the edge of the paint. Here's what happened:
The official play-by-play lists this basket as a 12-foot shot. Tip-ins almost always occur right around the hoop, but Collison's came from an area where he only took two jumpers this entire season. If the 0.1-second tip-in is rare on its own, then this one ranks as one of the rarest possible plays on a basketball court.
In terms of degree of difficulty, Collison's basket looks a lot more difficult than Stephenson's vs. the Heat. To his credit, Stephenson had to score with more defensive pressure, although the Heat seemed to be focused on defending the much taller Roy Hibbert on the play. On the other hand, the Spurs only weren't pressuring Collison heavily because there's no point in risking a foul on a 12-foot tip-in. There is virtually no reason to believe that someone would make this shot.
Really, Stephenson only beats out Collison in terms of drama. With his basket, the Pacers pulled within four points before the break on their way to taking the lead shortly into the second half (before losing late). The Thunder followed up Collison's basket by turning a 32-29 lead into a 47-42 halftime deficit. Maybe the team was too shocked to use it as a building block.
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