The Specialist Closes the Deal

By Michael Wilbon
Monday, June 20, 2005

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Has there been a more specialized player in basketball history than Robert Horry? All he does is hit shots, usually three-pointers, to win games in late May and throughout June. That's it. That's his job. Nobody has ever done it better, either. He's basketball's Mariano Rivera, the greatest door-slammer ever. He's been doing it for more than 10 years now, all the way back to when he was a skinny kid playing with Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. Then he took his springtime show to Los Angeles. Remember when he hit that loose ball three-pointer for the Lakers to break Sacramento's heart? Now, it's the San Antonio Spurs who are lucky to have him because virtually by himself Horry won Game 5 here to give the Spurs control of the series again.

His three-pointer with 5.8 seconds left won it. His left-handed dunk the sequence before set it up.

Nobody in the building had a worse game than Horry the first three quarters. Nobody. "I said to myself at halftime, 'Rob, you've got to do better than this.' " He couldn't finish, couldn't hold on to the ball, his shoulder was killing him. All he did was hit the last shot of the third quarter, of course a three-pointer, then go on to score 18 more for a total of 21 points in the last 12 minutes 1 second, plus the overtime. Rasheed Wallace made the silly, stupid, unforgivably dumb basketball mistake of leaving Horry to double-team Manu Ginobili at the end of overtime with his Pistons ahead by two. You could hear everybody in the building who has ever seen Horry play in June moan.

Three.

Mr. Big Shot, Robert Horry.

Big Shot Bob. Big Shot Bobby.

"Can you make it Big Shot Rob," he asked afterward. "Can you make it R-O-B? I mean, Bob. that's just not me."

By any name, this is the way he'll be remembered, firing a three-pointer to win the game, to crush the other guy. "I want to win a game," Horry said later. "I don't want to go into overtime. I'm always going for three."

The person who ought to thank Horry the most is Tim Duncan, who tried everything to sabotage what for most of four quarters had been a great, great 26-point, 19-rebound performance.

Has a great basketball player ever melted down to the degree Duncan did in the fourth quarter Sunday night? Asked to make free throws with the game, the season and perhaps a championship on the line, Duncan choked. He missed six straight foul shots. And when Ginobili's drive to the basket produced a dunk attempt in the final second of regulation to win the game, Duncan flubbed it. At 6 feet 11, he couldn't dunk, couldn't lay it in, couldn't gather it in. That's seven attempts with nobody guarding him, and Duncan -- one of the five best players of his generation and a man already in possession of two championship rings -- couldn't convert a single one of them.

Oh, and let's not forget the pass he couldn't hold onto in the final 50 seconds that resulted in an unforced San Antonio turnover. It was painful to watch a player of such stature play the way Duncan did at the end of Game 5. We may have to go back to Greg Norman.

Anyway, Duncan is off the hook and the Pistons are on it, now facing two games in San Antonio, needing two wins to successfully defend their title.


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