Horry Scale: Jayson Tatum’s twirling layup gives Celtics epic Game 1 win over Nets

Jayson Tatum spins for the buzzer-beating game-winner.

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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“It’s playoff basketball.”

Jayson Tatum emphasized that truth in word and deed in Sunday’s epic Game 1 finish between the Celtics and Nets. What could have been a monumental collapse at home turned into one of the league’s trademark did-you-see-that moments when Tatum took a Marcus Smart pass and twirled around Kyrie Irving for the game-winning layup as the buzzer sounded, giving Boston the 115-114 victory.

The entire finish left players and onlookers alike flushed at the prospect of a seven game series featuring such drama. For now, we’ll zoom in on Tatum’s entry into the all-time playoff highlight reel.

GAME SITUATION: Boston led by as many as 15 before nearly folding down the stretch. Despite seeing their lead morph into a three-point deficit with 45.9 seconds remaining, the Celtics did not break. Key defensive stops sandwiched a Jaylen Brown bucket to give Boston the ball back and trailing by one with 15 seconds left. The Celtics did not call timeout, adding to the free-flowing intensity of the final possessions of a remarkable game.

DIFFICULTY: Coming out of a defensive stop instead of a timeout, there was an initially frenetic feel to the Celtics’ final chance. They did not panic. Both Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart drew defensive attention and passed to an open teammate. The latter did so to Tatum, who cut away from Kevin Durant and, in one motion, caught the pass and spun around Kyrie Irving for the game-winning layup.

Is more than one percent of the world’s population as coordinated at anything as Tatum was in that unplanned catch-spin-shot sequence?

“It was just a layup,” Tatum said afterward.

Sure, Jayson.

CELEBRATION: Arms raised in triumph, Tatum ran to the center court where he was met by a mosh pit of teammates. Al Horford, a veteran of 125 playoff games with no Finals appearances to show for it, hugged and hung on to his superstar teammate in pure gratitude. Celtics fans exulted, jubilant witnesses of yet another timeless playoff moment in Boston.

GRADE: Celtics-Nets was immediately billed as a can’t-miss first-round series. Game 1 confirmed all of that and then some. If the rest of this best-of-seven clash is as closely fought, Tatum’s heroics could prove the difference. The presence of former teammate Kyrie Irving only adds to what is already a fantastically compelling matchup. Other playoff game-winning shots might be more difficult. They might happen in later games and even rounds. But they don’t happen often. Four-and-a-half Horries.

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