Dirk explodes on T-Mac and the Rockets for his career high

 

 

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This classic took place on December 2nd,2004, with only other game being Cleveland winning at Denver, it was a relatively slow night around the league. At the time the Mavericks were sitting at 11-6, and the Rockets at 6-11, and this game would also happen to be a preview of the 4/5 matchup in the playoffs that year ** Dallas taking the series in 7 games, then getting knocked out in 6 to the Steve Nash led suns, who averaged 30 PPG and 12 AST per game **.

This game was a perfect display of what young Dirk and TMac were able to do in, and some of their signature unguardable moves. For Dirk this ended up being the night he nabs his career high with 53 points on 15-32**  about 47% ** shooting from the field, 16 rebounds, 3 steals, and 4 blocks. Tmac had a night of his own as well with 48 points shooting 19-36 from the field ** 53%**, 9 rebounds, 9 assists,2 steals and 3 blocks. The Mavericks would end up winning 113-106 in Overtime, below are a few plays from TMac and Dirk that highlights their moves and how the game was played differently 14 years ago.

Dirk Example #1: Dirk hits a tough fadeaway over the solid defense, with the beautiful blonde mop on his head waving in the wind.

 

 

Here we have Dirk getting into position to bust a move to the high post near the top of the key, which gives him a full court to operate and get shit done. We also see Space Jam star Shawn Bradley camping out at the three-point line, where he is absolutely no threat, allowing his man to hang back and eventually able to provide extra help for Scott Padgett who is covering Dirk.

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Once Dirk gets the ball at the high post, we can see that five Rockets are within arms reach of the paint, creating terrible spacing for Dirk to attack the basket. While he does have his two best shooters ( Terry and Stackhouse), the defense does a great job jamming up the paint, which gives Dirk limited space to attack and draw help. Dirk begins to back down Scott Padgett and take to capitalize on the 4+ inch height advantage he has.

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Dirk starts to maneuver his way down to the paint, but 3 Rockets in a great position to help if he gets deep enough into the defense. Dirk gives a nice head and body shimmy to the left in an attempt to throw Padgett off, but the defense sticks with him and does not buy the fake.

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Once Dirk spins back to the right, he gathers himself to go straight up for a jumper. We can see still Bradley taking advantage of all 7 seven feet and 6 inches by still hanging around the three-point line as well. With all five Rockets staring directly at Dirk, he could have hit Stackhouse on the wing for three, but because of the height advantage and slight fade, he adds to the shot  Dirk has no problem knocking it down.

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Drik Example #2: Dirk continues to hit his pattened fadeaway over the solid defense.

 

 

This picks up towards the end of the of the shot clock with Dirk in attack mode as Juan Howard does a pitiful job closing out, which the giant German exploits. Yao is hanging back in the paint with a stable position, able to see his man and the ball.

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Once Dirk gets down to the block, big old Yao makes his presence known, which rightfully halts Dirk in his tracks. All five Rockets are again staring right at Dirk, with all five hanging out in the paint, making it impossible for Dirk to get all the way inside. He does have this two shooters on the wing, but Dirk is able to swing the ball back around to his left in an attempt to create more space.

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Another example of all five eyes on Dirk, and poor spacing all around for him to operate in. However, this is the conundrum with Dirk as Houston chose to put a smaller player on Dirk, in an attempt to keep him out of the paint and hit tough shots over smaller players. Except for a handful of other athletic freaks, most 7 footers have no chance in hell to hang with Dirk on the perimeter, allowing him to break down the defense. Van Gundy attempted to mix coverages up by going with the bigger Juan Howard at times, but Dirk did an excellent job of using all the tools in his toolkit to exploit the defense.

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With all five Rockets in the paint, Dirk raises straight up over Padgett, fading back just enough to get the shot off. His high release point and fade give him plenty of space to hit the shot.

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Dirk example #3: Dirk uses his height advantage over Maurice Taylor to knock down a sweet fadeaway.

 

Dirk establishes position on the right block, giving Mavs legend Josh Howard a target in the post, making it easy to get the entry pass to him. Once the pass is in, Howard dives middle to clear space for Dirk, who has the entire right side to work, but Tmac and Yao are situated nicely for help middle. Dirk’s defender Maurice Taylor was a solid defender,  and was able to push Dirk about 15 feet out, but not far enough out to keep Dirk from being able to create a high percentage shot for himself.

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With stable positioning baseline by Yao, this cuts off Dirk from trying to use his slight quickness advantage to beat Taylor off the dribble, while Tmac and Jim Jackson are able to cut off Dirk middle.

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While Taylor is s6″9.  it is still 4 inches shorter than Dirk, who uses his height, fadeaway, and 10 inch vertical to nail the shot.  As mentioned before, Dirk’s rare combination of height and quickness, which requires respect from the defense,  make this an unguardable shot.

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Dirk Example #4: Dirk turns a muffed pass into a fadeaway, giving the Mavs a lead in overtime they would never relinquish.

 

Dirk walks his man down towards the block, where Eric Dampier is getting in position to give Dirk a down screen in an attempt to free him up. While this is going on, Stackhouse runs off a screen weakside. And Jason Terry hits him then fades weakside.

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As he comes off the screen, Dirk takes his eyes off the ball, and it slips right through his hands. This also gives another example of how limited spacing was, as Dirk had nowhere to attack even if he was able to catch the pass without a problem.

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Dirk reacts quickly by collecting the ball off one bounce, gathering into a position where he can attack or go up for the shot. With all five Rockets glaring at him, and stable help defense baseline, Dirk decides to go up in rhythm for the shot.

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Another example showing off Dirk’s nasty fadeaway and high release point.

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TMac Example #1: Tmac shows off his post skills to split the double team and draw a foul on the make.

 

 

Juan Howard fakes the down screen for TMac, then flashes back out to the wing and collects the pass.

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Howard makes the entry pass to TMac, then proceeds to dive middle, which opens up the wing spot. Bob Sura sets a weakside screen for Jim Jackson, allowing him to fill the hole Howards left on the wing. Tmac then begins to get into position to back his man down in the post.

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With all ten Maverick eyeballs on TMac, and the middle wholly clogged with Mav defenders, there aren’t many options for Tmac to take advantage of. Bob Sura’s man, Devin Harris, completely abandons him on the weakside wing to double TMac down low.

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We see that Devin Harris and Josh Howard do a solid job with the double team on TMac, Mcgrady just does an even better job by splitting the double into the middle of the paint. There were options on the perimeter with Jim Jackson and Bob Sura open, but Mcgrady does not see them and makes the difficult shot plus the foul,

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Tmac Example #2: McGrady hits a contested mid-range jumper with his killer hesitation pull up over Dirk.

 

We see very early in the shot clock that all five Mavericks have their sights locked in on McGrady, paying little attention to their own man. Josh Howard bails on the trailing man and goes to double McGrady, who does a good job escaping the double towards the baseline side. While McGrady avoids the double, Dirk does a good job cutting off the baseline, which makes McGrady pull it back.

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McGrady pulls the ball back between his legs to his left hand, setting up his hesitation shot. Four Mavs players have one foot in the paint, cutting out the room McGrady has to maneuver with all 5 still locked in on him.

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The Mavs have done a great job of setting up a triple team zone while McGrady is in the corner, but it is one of those nights where there was not much you could do to slow this man down. McGrady does a great job setting up Dirk by putting his body into the fake, almost wholly leaning left as if he really was going to head that way. The hesitation puts Dirk on his heels and momentum leaning back.

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We see at the point where McGrady picks the ball up to shoot, Dirk is entirely flat-footed, with half his body leaning left. Once McGrady squares up and sets his feet,  he goes straight up without much contest from Mr. Nowitzki.

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Tmac Example #3: McGrady hits a quick turnaround jumper out of the post over the solid defense. 

 

 

As the play gets going, McGrady heads down to the block to get position on Marquis Daniels, where he has a two-inch height advantage. Jim Jackson delivers the entry pass, followed by a clear out the middle, but his man stays behind to zone the area to help out on McGrady.

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McGrady is pushed close to the three-point line, with  Daniels all in his personal space. Three Mavs have a foot in the paint to help, a fourth creating an overload zone and the fifth crowding  McGrady in no man’s land.

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As McGrady turns around to face the defense, he has the ball in triple threat position, and between him turning and going up for a shot, there’s a split second where McGrady looks like he could be attacking. McGrady is able to sell the fake just enough to keep the defender honest, even though there is help three feet away, but decides to use his height and athleticism to rise up for a shot.

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McGrady has such a beautiful shot because of how high he gets to take them, on top of having a stable release point, making this shot similar to Dirk’s in that it is virtually unguardable. McGrady’s gravity is also on display, as the other four Mavs are backing up the paint with eyes locked on TMac. We also see Jackson just going through the motions and showing very little awareness to what the defense is up to, as his man is not giving him much thought.

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Tmac Example #4: McGrady gives the Rockets a one-point lead with just under two minutes to go.

 

Right off the bat, we see Jason Terry in bad defensive position as he is flat-footed, slouching without bending his knees, the terrible starting position for one of the greatest scorers to ever play.  We see McGrady with the ball in his left, setting up his defender for another hesitation pull up, and the fact that he has five-plus inches on Terry makes this a very reasonable shot for McGrady to take, even though it is early in the shot clock of a close game on the road,.

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Because of the slight hesitation, Terry gets into the same position that Dirk was earlier, leaning left flat-footed because of the split-second hesitation. At this point we see McGrady ready to rise up for the shot, feet set and squared to the basket, picture perfect body position for a shot.

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Another example of McGrady using his height and athletic advantage, this time over a smaller defender.  It is also easy to see how ridiculously high he gets on his jump shot, especially for a pull up three with momentum, McGrady covered about two feet in the air at the point of taking off and landing.  Terry has no chance at contesting the shot or giving McGrady a second thought about taking it,

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These are a few examples of the type of shots these two players built their careers on, and on this December night in 2004, they both gave the Dallas crowd a game to remember.

 

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