Photo by Fernando Medina/Orlando Magic
Disclaimer: I’m about to poke a few holes in Tracy McGrady’s 62-point game against the Washington Wizards. No doubt it was one of the most impressive individual outings of his career, but this was a volume shooting session. A Nick Young lucid dream. T-Mac had the green light and he fired away every time he was in range. My only beef is that when you’re going to shoot the ball every time you touch it, maybe we should expect you to score closer to, say, 81?
We’re actually going to touch on the hot hand theory here in a bit, but first, let’s take a brisk walk through this legendary game from nine years ago.
Pretend you’re a coach for a minute. Your team is playing in Orlando and, by far and away, the biggest offensive threat is a 6-foot-8 maestro with a silky smooth jumper. Objective A is to do what? Yes, make sure he doesn’t get into the paint. Objective B? Don’t give him any open jump shots.
You’ve heard the coach speak before. “If they’re going to beat us with difficult, contested jump shots, then they’re just going to beat us.”
In the case of Washington vs. Orlando on March 10, 2004, we need to slightly adjust the aforementioned jargon. “When Tracy McGrady shoots the ball 37 times, and more than 30 of those shots are contested but he still makes 20 of them, we’re probably going to lose.”
We can’t take anything away from T-Mac in this outing, because even upon reviewing the game nine years later, it was an outstanding effort. But let’s take a look at some context. Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in a game in 2006. If you had to guess, how many shots do you think he took? The answer is 46, just nine more attempts than McGrady in his 62-point game. That’s comparing apples and oranges, but the way that the two players got their buckets in these respective games were similar.
Take a handoff pass, drill a 3. Back down, fadeaway, buckets. Hand in the face? Don’t care. Still shooting. Net. Take it to the rack? Why? I’ll just shoot from the perimeter. Money.
T-Mac’s 62-point game was a classic case of a guy who was “feeling it,” a concept that we know isn’t entirely sound. When you sit around with your buddies talking about that game, you can’t help but think about how amazing it was. I’m sure phrases have been thrown around like, “he couldn’t miss!” Sure, that’s how we remember it.