A PtR Moment: Hill's Agression, McDyess' Toughness

Here's another installment of A PtR Moment where yours truly takes a play and breaks it down farther than an electron microscope can resolve. And today ... a bonus: two plays for the price of one! Follow me beyond the jump to a place where slow motion is just not slow enough; you have to watch multiple times to absorb all the awesomeness in these plays from Game 3 of the Spurs - Mavericks series.

Before you see the first play, let's remember its context in the game. The fourth quarter began with Manu driving for three buckets (two of them and ones) only interrupted by a Hill layup and a Terry 3 on the other side. Suffice to say, at this point, Dallas' defense was focused on denying Manu the ball. That's what made this play possible.

By the way, the third of The Sickness' drives is discussed by wangalusa in his excellent post here. It's a thing of beauty and I would have done A PtR Moment on it, if he already hadn't written about it.

Hill makes his move

The play begins

Tony brings the ball past half-court and the offense is set up for another play for Ginobili. Manu is on the right block with Kidd guarding him. McDyess outruns Tony, and sets a screen for him to go right, which he does, passing back to Antonio as Manu darts up from the baseline, through the paint to receive a handoff and -- what's this? Antonio passes to Hill, who had been in the corner and had sprinted back toward Dice at the same time as Manu. SAM, who either never saw Manu or had a moment's confusion, gets the ball to Hill who's under serious pressure from Terry.

George evaluates

It seems that George is suffering no confusion about who this play is being run for, since he immediately looks toward Manu, who has run almost all the way out to center court, being hounded by Kidd the whole way. Now, nobody knows quite what to do, and everybody stands around for a couple ticks.

Manu, after backing up a couple of steps, takes quick run toward Hill, but there's no room for a pass as Kid is right there, step for step. Manu's move for the ball carries him around the sideline side of Hill, and Terry, who's in full on Deny-Manu-Mode, make a very interesting adjustment.

Where things stand

As Manu jets around behind Hill, Terry jumps to his right, toward the sideline, in order to cut off what he expects to be a pass to Manu. This probably is actually Plan B for our offense, at this point, but the Paper Airplane's decision to overplay Manu opens the court for Hill to go for Plan C.

Here's the status of the court: Hill's at the 3pt line, elbow extended with Manu circling behind him, McDyess and his man are above the free throw line on the other side of the lane, Parker's in the far corner, and Duncan's on the opposite block from Hill. All of that is to say that, with Terry moving in between Hill and Manu, there is no one in between Cubits and the basket. This is what's usually called a defensive breakdown -- but when Manu plays as he did in Game 3, the opposition has to react in some way, or they're just cooperating with their own demise.

George drives and dishes

The Albatross takes off and, with Terry trying desperately to catch up, makes it to the lane quite quickly. Haywood leaves Duncan to stop Hill from proceeding, completely unimpeded, to the rim. Hill picks up his second dribble and drops a sweet dime to Duncan who lays it in as Haywood reacts too late.


The scoring portion of this play is quite simple -- Hill's drive draws Duncan's man over. Hill passes to Duncan, who scores. But the crux of this play is Terry's giving up his sound defensive position (stay in between your man and the bucket -- especially if he has the ball!) in exchange for keeping the ball from Manu who was threatening to single-handedly put the game out of reach.

Great players tilt the court in strange ways. In this case, Manu tilted it so that Hill's defender was more worried about Hill passing the ball, than he was about Hill driving straight to the bucket.

Bonus play: Antonio delivers

I'd planned to spend more time on this, but game four is beginning, even as I type, so I'll just say this. Don't watch Terry bring the ball up the court and shoot and miss a three. Instead, watch McDyess the whole time. Believe me, it's quite something to behold. Now, it wouldn't be quite such a demolition, if the timing of Haywood's slip hadn't been perfectly synchronized with Dice's blockout. But, oh well -- that's how it goes.

McDyess' brutality

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