Try as he might to play the role of The Grinch, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall couldn’t spoil a special night for the children of the Ryan Cameron Foundation or the Atlanta Hawks.
After a dormant first, second and third period in which he scored only 2 points, Wall took over the fourth and led the Wizards from seven points down in the game’s final minutes (13 at one point in the fourth quarter) to force overtime. But with the game on the line and 1.8 seconds on the clock in overtime, Hawks center Al Horford stepped up and hit a buzzer beater to win it, notching a career high 34 points and 15 rebounds on the night.
“It was good for our group to win a close game,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “It was great to get those two huge free throws by Al and a big basket to win it.”
Budenholzer was pretty mum about how the final play of the game was supposed to go, saying only that the team had “multiple options,” but the game’s hero was less inhibited.
“There were three options [on the play]: me, Paul [Milsap] or Kyle [Korver. They overplayed both of those guys,” said Horford after the game. “It was supposed to be a lob for a dunk. We’ve worked that play since before I was comfortable with it.”
Horford got the ball on an inbounds pass from lightly used reserve forward/center Pero Antic, who came in the game specifically to make the lob. Hawks point guard Jeff Teague said he had no doubt about the game’s outcome from the moment the ball hit his teammate’s hands.
“I knew it. [Horford] got the height on [the shot],” said Teague. “It was just a great pass by Pero.”
Horford’s fade away jumper from about 10 feet as time expired took the Hawks to 12-11 on the season and brought the team its 11th straight home win against the Wizards. It also brought the Highlight Factory to its feet and sent attendees to Philips Arena’s RED Lounge for the Ryan Cameron Night after party. Cameron, the ever bashful announcer, used the opportunity to facetiously take credit for the win.
“I try to give back, man. You know? I want to give something to the fans,” Cameron told the Daily World after the game. “I give them free basketball and then we win.
“No, but really, I mean last year we lost and then people didn’t really want to party. Tonight, people are hanging around and they’re going to have a good time. I mean, it was a thrilling win. It was an awesome, awesome basketball night.”
Ryan Cameron Night included discount tickets for fans, special contests during the game for kids involved in the Ryan Cameron Foundation and contributions to organizations like Atlanta Day Shelter for Women & Children, Inc., Genesis Women’s Shelter, Celine’s Place, My House, VOX Teen Communications, Big Kidz Foundation and others that Cameron’s foundation serves.
It was the third annual celebration for Cameron and his not-for-profit organization, which supports youth in and around the Atlanta area.
“We just want to make sure that people understand that we’ve been doing this stuff in the community since 1990, with the give back and the foundation,” said Cameron, who serves as the team’s PA announcer during games in addition to hosting the morning show on Atlanta’s V-103. “Me being from Atlanta, it’s very important that the Hawks are supportive of me and I’m supportive of them. It’s a great partnership and we just ask people to go to RyanCameron.org and volunteer and help us out with our cause.”
As for the night itself, Cameron summed it up quite simply.
“It was a ball,” he said.