With 1.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Cory Joseph dribbled once, gathered the ball, and opened the bank for this half-court, buzzer-beating heave:
Like so much of what the lunch pail guard regularly contributes that somehow manages to go unnoticed (or, perhaps less noticed), it was an easy-to-overlook highlight on a night that saw the Pacers rally from a 19-point deficit behind clutch plays from Wesley Matthews and a huge, 26-point performance from Domantas Sabonis against his former team.
Heck, Joseph himself barely even took a moment to enjoy it, opting instead only for an understated clenched fist before returning to the bench to retrain his focus on the task at hand (#legend).
But, consider this: What if the scrappy defender had shadily held onto the ball just a hair too long as to not further tank his already woeful field-goal percentage for the night?
After all, he was 0-of-4 from the floor up until that point, and his accuracy outside of 8 feet has dipped to below 30 percent since the All-Star break in (dun-dun-dunnn) a contract year.
It would’ve been easy for him to take an extra dribble and conveniently avoid hoisting up his shot until after the buzzer sounded, especially with his team down by 13 points in a quarter in which they trailed by as many as 19.
And yet, Joseph doesn’t just lead the Pacers in desperation heaves, he’s one of only 18 players in the league who have launched at least four shots from 46 feet or further (the distance by which the NBA officially tracked his apparently just-shy-of half-court shot) with 10 seconds or less remaining in the first, second, or third periods.
Last season, there were 22 players meeting that criteria, down from 27 in 2016-17 and 28 in 2015-16. Unless the league makes up that 4 to 10 player gap with less than 15 games to go, the number of players meeting or exceeding Joseph’s volume of (nearly) half-court prayers is dwindling in the modern, efficiency-obsessed NBA.
And it’s not hard to see why.
The rate of conversion on those shots is non-zero, but it’s precipitously close to zero.
Per Basketball-Reference, the rest of the league has shot 5-for-312 (1.6 percent) on all registered attempts from that range this season, and Joseph was 0-of-11 for his career headed into last night.
Now, he’s 1-for-12.
The Pacers won 108-106, so those three points sort of turned out to be a big deal.
Add this to the myriad of little things that the scrappy guard is willing to do that routinely combine to make a not-so-insignificant impact.