Ranking the Best Buzzer-Beaters of the NBA Season
The 2012-13 NBA season has been absolutely loaded with buzzer-beaters and game-winners, and we're still less than halfway through the year. Joe Johnson and Kyrie Irving contributed most recently to the league's dramatics with a pair of contest-deciding daggers on Jan. 4.
But their heroics were just a couple of high-arcing drops in the bucket in what's been an amazing collection of late-game shots so far this year.
We've seen a wide array of NBA players getting in on the act too. From veteran gunners like Ray Allen to fresh-faced rookies like Draymond Green, everyone's been trying to beat the buzzer.
There were almost too many to choose from, but we've rounded up the top 10 back-breakers from the 2012-13 season (plus a bonus entry) for your approval.
By the way, if you're a fan of the Charlotte Bobcats, you might want to go ahead and skip our rankings. They're on here a couple of times, but not for reasons you'll like.
All of these shots came in the fourth quarter or overtime, and every one of them decided the game. It was a tough job to rank such a collection of spectacular plays, but hey, somebody had to do it.
Honorable Mention: Joe Johnson vs. Washington Wizards
On Jan. 4, the Brooklyn Nets needed double overtime to knock off the Washington Wizards. If it weren't for Joe Johnson, they would have had to play a third additional period.
With the game tied, Johnson calmly worked his way down to the right elbow against Bradley Beal before elevating and dropping in a jumper with less than a second remaining.
The Nets were reeling after the late-December dismissal of coach Avery Johnson and the subsequent backlash against point guard Deron Williams, who many blamed for the firing.
A loss to the lowly Wizards would have been tough to stomach on top of all that. Thanks to Johnson, the Nets avoided disaster.
10. Mo Williams vs. San Antonio Spurs
Poor Danny Green.
After Mo Williams untied the game with a long-range bomb at the buzzer on Dec. 12, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ripped into Green, who was guarding Williams on the play (via Salt Lake Tribune):
What do you think a guy is going to do with two seconds on the clock. You make him drive. You don't step back on Mo Williams. That's why he was on him—why we didn't have to have a small guy like Tony Parker. We put a big guy on him for that reason—to get up on him—and he backed off. Huge defensive error that cost us the game.
Pretty harsh stuff.
We won't dock Williams for the defensive miscue, though. It was still a sweet shot over a very good defender.
9. Tony Parker vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Where did Russell Westbrook go?
Tony Parker, always elusive, managed to shake Oklahoma City's point guard on Nov. 1, and it resulted in a game-winner for the Spurs on opening night.
It was a rough way to start the season for the defending Western Conference champs, but after the disappointing loss, they've turned out pretty well. OKC sits atop the conference yet again, right alongside the Spurs.
You can bet Westbrook will keep a closer eye on Parker the next time these teams meet, and he'll be especially vigilant when they inevitably clash at some point in the postseason.
8. Kyrie Irving vs. Charlotte Bobcats
Despite the cumbersome mask, Kyrie Irving could see well enough to drain a game-winning bucket against the Charlotte Bobcats on Jan. 4. The pull-up jumper was awfully pretty to look at, but if it wasn't for Irving's heroics throughout the entire fourth quarter, it wouldn't have mattered.
The masked man poured in a total of 16 points in the final period.
With little help coming from one of the league's least-talented rosters, Irving may have to keep playing the superhero role.
It seems like he can handle that.
7. J.R. Smith vs. Charlotte Bobcats
Sorry, Charlotte Bobcat fans. This makes it two in a row.
Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did a heck of a job keeping a hand in J.R. Smith's face on this buzzer-beater, but if we know one thing about the Knicks' sixth man, it's that degree of difficulty doesn't faze him.
Smith received the inbounds pass, drove left, faded and buried an incredibly tough shot over the outstretched arm of MKG on Dec. 5 in Charlotte. It was yet another disappointing end for the 'Cats, but really, what else could they have done?
Credit Smith for doing what he does: Get buckets.
6. Brandon Jennings vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Well, Kyrie Irving made it onto the list a few spots ago, but his team was on the wrong end of Brandon Jennings' three-point heave on Nov. 3.
Jennings curled to the top of the arc and caught a pass as he moved to his left, always a tougher angle for left-handed shooters to get a good look. Despite the speed with which he was moving on the catch and the duo of Cavalier defenders in his face, Jennings launched a high-arcing triple that splashed through the net, giving the Bucks a dramatic victory in their home opener.
Not a bad way for the Bucks to kick off the season on their floor.
5. Nicolas Batum vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
First Brandon Jennings on Nov. 3, and now this? Apparently, the Cleveland Cavaliers surrender buzzer-beaters at the beginning of each month.
Nic Batum's Dec. 1 game-winner cracks the top five because it is a terrific example of perseverance. Batum hit a shot at the end of the first overtime that had everyone heading for the exits.
Until the referees reviewed it and determined it came after the horn.
Batum made sure to get his game-winning attempt off before the buzzer in double OT, sinking a corner three while falling out of bounds. He even had two-tenths of a second to spare this time.
The shot was great, but we'd be lying if we said the Cavs' hilariously distraught TV announcers didn't play a factor in our enjoyment of this play. Way to stay unbiased, fellas.
4. Ray Allen vs. Denver Nuggets
Of course Ray Allen's buzzer-beating four-point play checks in at No. 4. Where else would it belong?
Allen's corner three and-one turned a one-point disadvantage into a three-point lead for the Miami Heat. There were still 6.7 seconds left after the shot and ensuing free throw, which stretches the bounds of the term "buzzer-beater," but the play was too good to exclude.
Corey Brewer could only smile afterwards, knowing his mistimed step toward a driving LeBron James had yielded a shot for Allen in his favorite spot. He should have known better; Allen had already hit five triples in the game and James was just waiting for the Nuggets to collapse as he drove.
There are still three plays ahead of this one, but rest assured, none of them yielded a bigger swing than Allen's four-pointer.
3. Joe Johnson vs. Detroit Pistons
Joe Johnson earns an official spot in the rankings after making honorable mention earlier. This time, his game-winner came on Dec. 14 in a double-overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons.
And Tayshaun Prince is still looking for his jock.
Johnson crossed Prince up on the right wing before stepping back to bury a beautiful jumper. There may be better shooters than Johnson, but it's hard to think of anyone with a prettier stroke.
Oh, and we've clearly learned that the Brooklyn Nets shooting guard prefers to do his buzzer-beating in double overtime. Teams might want to take note of that.
2. Draymond Green vs. Miami Heat
Unlike most of the other entries on this list, Draymond Green's buzzer-beating layup against the Miami Heat on Dec. 12 wasn't the result of a brilliant individual play. Instead, it was a triumph of great strategy and quick thinking.
Jarrett Jack deserves immense credit for staying patient as the clock wound down against the defending champs. He turned down Stephen Curry on a curl and then said "no thanks" to Klay Thompson as he sprang out as a secondary option.
But when Shane Battier overplayed, Thompson and Green took advantage by slipping inside, Jack rifled a gutsy pass to the rookie for the stunning lay-in.
The play put the league on notice that the Golden State Warriors were the real deal and also helped propel the Dubs to a season-altering 6-1 East Coast road trip.
Some fans might prefer dramatic fadeaways or step-backs, but true lovers of the game can appreciate the value of brilliant execution on a well-diagrammed play like this one.
1. J.R. Smith vs. Phoenix Suns
Remember all that stuff from the last slide about brilliant strategy and smarts? This Dec. 26 play from J.R. Smith (his second entry in the top 10) takes the cake because it had absolutely none of those things.
Instead, Smith nearly falls down, catches a pass at his knees, turns while still on the move and heaves a prayer over the tremendous defense of P.J. Tucker.
Almost nothing went right for the Knicks on the play, but Smith's ridiculous athleticism and fearlessness resulted in a truly spectacular game-winner that tops our list.