The NBA features a lot of really close games, because even the worst teams are capable of competing on a nightly basis. It stands to reason, then, that there are also a lot of games that go down to the final possession. And while the percentage of made game-ending shots is much lower than on any other random play in the game, they still go in often enough that teams get one every so often. Certainly, the gaps between them typically don’t go on for especially long.
Yet, until Thursday night, the Toronto Raptors hadn’t had a game-winning buzzer-beater since December 20, 2006, when T.J. Ford hit a jumper to break a tie against the Clippers in Los Angeles (info via The Point Forward and The National Post). That’s a long time to go without one of the plays that makes the NBA the exciting league it is.
Credit shooting guard DeMar DeRozan with ending the streak. With 4.3 seconds left and the Raptors tied 95-95 with the Magic in Orlando, DeRozan took a pass from Jose Calderon, dribbled towards to his left towards the baseline, and hit a ludicrously difficult stepback fadeaway jumper over Glen Davis and an attending Arron Afflalo for a thrilling finish. The shot capped a nice night for DeRozan, who led all scorers with 22 points on 10-17 shooting.
The Raptors won 210 games in between buzzer-beaters. Additionally, seven of the 10 players in that Clippers game are now retired or out of the NBA, including Ford. Only Andrea Bargnani — then a promising rookie, not a long-term disappointment — is still with the Raptors. Oh, and 2006-07 was also the season when head coach Sam Mitchell, now considered a poor coach at best, won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award. So, yeah, much has changed.
We can only imagine what the Raptors will be like when they get their next buzzer-beater. If it takes another six years, I hope Bargnani isn’t still on the roster. Toronto deserves better than that.