Horry Scale: Kyrie Irving’s 21-foot lefty hook stuns Nuggets

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.

If there was ever one play that encapsulates Kyrie Irving’s combination of skill, ambidexterity and improbable finishing ability, it was his buzzer-beating game-winner in the Mavericks’ 107-105 win over reigning champion Denver on Sunday.

Already immortalized by his clutch 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals and countless logic-defying forays to the rim throughout his career, Irving added an enormous new entry to his lifetime highlight reel with a 21-foot hook shot with his left hand as time expired.

GAME SITUATION: The Mavericks appeared set for a far less dramatic ending, leading by 13 in the fourth quarter before Denver stormed back to take a 105-102 lead on Jamal Murray’s 3-pointer with 28 seconds left. Luka Doncic tied the game seconds later, and a Murray miss left set up Dallas with the ball, near the 3-point arc with 2.8 seconds remaining. It wasn’t win-or-lose, but any chance at topping the scorching-hot Nuggets could be the last one of the night.

DIFFICULTY: It would be nearly impossible to draw up a more difficult shot in H-O-R-S-E, let alone a live-action attempt against Denver’s switching defense. Time did not allow for Irving to fully round the corner on Nikola Jokic, forcing him to rise going to his left while still 21 feet away from the basket. With Jokic’s size and reach looming, Irving went up with his left hand and was forced to give the ball an extra flick to ensure Jokic couldn’t block it. The combination of distance and southpaw style seems unbelievable in hindsight, even with it being Irving. It wasn’t, and it went in.

CELEBRATION: Mavericks fans have been treated to a fair number of incredible finishes by their star players this century, mostly by Dirk Nowitzki and Doncic. Sunday’s packed arena in Dallas erupted as loudly for Irving as the others. Most of his teammates (rightly) mobbed him at halfcourt. Maxi Kleber’s reaction might have been the one viewers related to the most: both hands on his head, trying to absorb his own disbelief.

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