Monday night’s thrilling triple OT slugfest between the Mavericks and Jazz didn’t go Dallas’s way, but lordy did they show why they’ll be a tough out come playoff time at the end of the first overtime.
Rob Mahoney named his excellent Mavericks blog The Two Man Game for a very, very good reason. At the end of games, few teams can go to an offensive tactic as reliable and deadly as Dirk Nowtizki and Jason Terry with a side of the court to themselves.
Take a look:
21.3 seconds left, first OT. Vince Carter sets the stage by racing along the baseline to clear out the left wing. Terry comes up off a Dirk screen and because he is such a good shooter with a reputation for late game heroics, his defender trails tightly instead of going under the hand off/screen. As Terry turns the corner, Dirk’s defender is loath to help and leave Nowitzki isolated in space or against a smaller defender. Thus Terry gets a free run at the basket where he expertly absorbs the contact from Al Jefferson and curls the ball in.
Watch how these two take their time on the exchange. Terry is careful to make sure his man cannot sneak between he and Nowtizki, that’s more important than going full speed. Once he is satisfied with the separation, he races around the corner before Millsap can help.
13.4 seconds left, first OT. This time Brian Cardinal, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter align themselves along the perimeter on the left side, leaving the right side of the court to Terry and Nowtizki. In this exchange, we see why Dirk is truly a unique talent in the NBA. Not only can he shoot like no 7-footer ever, he can run a pick-and-roll to devastating effect.
It’s worth mentioning that Terry is probably the most underrated screener in the NBA. He throws his whole body into Millsap, forcing his defender, DeMarre Carroll, to hedge on Dirk. Terry’s timing is also brilliant, as soon as Carroll leaves his hip, he flashes to the wing, instantly creating a veritable chasm, given the time and score, between him and his defender.
At 7 feet, Dirk has no problem passing over the defense to an open Terry. Here’s where things get truly fantastic. Terry pumps Millsap out of his sneakers then throws a second fake to draw Carroll before swinging back to Nowitzki, who is now all by his lonesome with seven seconds left. Dirk pumps again to send Gordon Hayward, frantically rotating off of Brian Cardinal, flying past before calmly drilling the straight away 3-pointer.
Note: Later that same night, I was catching a bit of the Thunder-Clipper game, and I couldn’t help but wonder if Durant and Harden (Westbrook’s jumper remains too unreliable to run this action in the same way) could use a bit of the two man magic.
Perhaps the biggest problem: quality of screens. Harden sets them fairly well, but Durant still struggles to really lay the lumber on the targets of his screens. The other issue is that the Thunder rarely play three let along five threatening three point shooters, making it more difficult to clear out an entire side.
But with Harden and Durant’s combination of ball handling, size and shooting, these two have the makings of an absolutely unstoppable duo in the kind of action that, through thousands of repetitions in games and practice, the Mavericks have perfected.