A reminder on The Horry Scale: It breaks down a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety night in November?) and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, named for the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.
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The Lakers have looked for real for real ever since the trades that refashioned their roster at the deadline, even with LeBron James on an extended injury hiatus. And after handing the Mavericks an early lead on Friday, they ground Dallas down to claim the advantage — and start stretching it — midway through the 4th.
The stage was set for them to claim a crucial game, not only on its face, but also for potential implications in tying the season series with an opponent they’re trying to catch (and potentially surpass) in the West standings. And then, in less than a second, everything changed. The Lakers were left looking on, and looking up. The climb continues.
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) March 18, 2023
GAME SITUATION: With the Lakers overtaking the Mavericks midway through the 4th, Anthony Davis split a pair of free throws with 6.7 seconds to play, leaving Dallas one final chance. They advanced the ball to the front court, with everyone well aware Kyrie Irving was on a heater: 38 points on 14-for-23 shooting with five 3-pointers. The inbounds connected, and Irving was bottled up in a trap by Kenyan Gabriel and Dennis Schroder … only to find the opening for a two-hand pass to a wide-open Kleber.
DIFFICULTY: With the pass arriving into his mitts less than a second from the final buzzer, Kleber essentially one-timed it into the basket, releasing it with 0.2 on the clock. Anthony Davis, who had sagged off toward a free safety position near the nail, desperately attempted to recover. Unfurling his full 7-foot-6 wingspan, Davis stretched close, but not close enough.
MAXI KLEBER GAME WINNER!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/xEigm97YQl
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) March 18, 2023
CELEBRATION: Kleber watched it fall, then turned and raised his fists after watching it drop through, already bounding toward the onrushing bench mob, who enveloped him in a sea of blue warmups. The bounce back took multiple players to the ground, while crushed Lakers looked on in shell-shocked disbelief, ruing the loss of what could prove to be a crucial head-to-head game.
GRADE: With the Mavs’ once-solid lead evaporating, and the specter of another Kyrie-led loss looming, Kleber’s flick flipped a two-point loss into a one-point win. Flipped a drop-out of the guaranteed playoff field into a holding pattern at 6th. And flipped a season-series tie into a season-series victory. That might matter — a lot. 4.0 Horrys.