As Devonte Graham sat in the New Orleans Pelicans‘ locker room after Wednesday night’s game, an Oklahoma City Thunder staffer walked in with a gift: the game ball from Graham’s wild buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
“One of the guys from the Thunder walked in with the ball and said, ‘This is my Christmas present to you,'” a smiling Graham recalled. “I guessed they figured out which one it was. I appreciate them for that.”
Graham hit a 61-foot shot as time expired to lift the Pelicans to a wild 113-110 win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
“When I saw it released from Devonte’s hands, I just said, ‘Lord, please.’ And He delivered,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “It was a crazy ending to an up-and-down game. Both teams fought and battled. I’m glad that we’re on the winning side of it. Great way to end a road trip.”
Graham’s shot was the longest game-winning buzzer-beater in the past 25 years, according to ESPN Stats and Information research, besting a 50-footer by Tyreke Evans for Memphis in 2010.
Graham’s winning shot came as Thunder fans were cheering a crazy game-tying shot by one of their own just seconds earlier.
With 1.4 seconds left, the Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander nailed a 30-footer to tie the score. Some Pelicans players dropped their heads, assuming the game was headed to overtime, but Graham made eye contact with Green and saw the play call.
“It’s called Vegas,” Graham said. “It’s three different options to it. Thankfully, we hit the right option.”
Graham said initially he was just going to take the ball out and quickly try to dish it to someone for a desperation shot because he knew the Pelicans didn’t have any timeouts, figuring they were going to play for overtime. But then he saw Green. That’s when he flipped the ball to Josh Hart to have him inbound the ball to him and run a play properly.
Graham caught the inbounds pass on the run, took one dribble and let the ball go. As it banked in, he ran around the court celebrating with teammates before quickly sprinting to the locker room.
Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, who scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to keep the game close, set a pseudo screen for Graham on the play. Mostly because he was still in disbelief at Gilgeous-Alexander’s 30-footer.
“Well, personally, I was still shell-shocked after Shai hit his 3-pointer,” Ingram said. “But Devonte stayed locked in. Josh Hart stayed locked in. We do have a play at the end of the game where we do what exactly what he did. He just made a hell of a shot.”
According to Second Spectrum, Gilgeous-Alexander’s shot had a 14.1% chance of going in. Meanwhile, Graham’s shot had just a 3.5% chance. The combined chance for both shots to go in was 0.5%.
Also, according to ESPN Stats and Information, it was the first game in the past 25 years to feature multiple game-tying or go-ahead shots from 30-plus feet inside the final five seconds of the game.
It’s the second time this season Graham has hit a big shot for New Orleans in the final seconds. Against Utah on Nov. 26, Graham hit a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to give the Pelicans to a 98-97 win over the Jazz.
Against the Thunder, the Pelicans weren’t trying to be in a position to need a game-winner. As Oklahoma City inbounded the ball with 4.5 seconds to go and the Pelicans leading 110-107, the plan was for whoever was closest to the Thunder player with the ball to take the foul. Green said they even told officials to look for the foul before a shot attempt went up.
So when Garrett Temple saw Gilgeous-Alexander catch the ball 35 feet away from the hoop, he went for the foul, but it wasn’t granted. Temple then pulled back his hands to avoid a potential four-point play as the shot went through the hoop.
Luckily for New Orleans, Graham was on top of things after that.
“The moment the ball went in, Devonte looked at me,” Green said. “I kind of put up a touchdown sign and he knew what that meant. It was a crazy shot. I’m just glad it went in. Our guys executed pretty decent down the stretch. We have room for improvement, but I’m proud of what we did tonight.”