Unlike their first meeting, Shutoku attacks Seirin with all their strength from the get go.
After their last meeting, both teams know that they’re in for an all out war in this game. Midorima and Kagami come in to the game knowing that they will be facing off against each other from the get go. When the game starts, both team’s intensity is evident. There’s a flurry of action as neither team will allow the other to get a shot off. Kagami quickly blocks several of Midorima’s shots causing both coaches and spectators to notice that Kagami seems to be jumping even higher than he was during their previous meeting. However, the Seirin team notices that Midorima’s skills are conspicuously the same as they were the last time. Midorima tells Kagami that, even though they don’t have a lot of new tricks they do have a plan. Midorima’s shots take a toll on his body, but so do Kagami’s jumps. So Midorima plans to attack Kagami by forcing to use up his jumping ability to defend his shots over and over. Although Midorima hasn’t developed a new technique, his endurance training has removed the limitation on the number of deep shots he can take. So, between Midorima and Kagami, the game becomes a battle of endurance with neither player willing to fail. Even knowing that, Kuroko notices that Midorima seems like a different player.
The reason for Kuroko’s uneasiness soon reveals itself. Midorima has changed his game from the last time they played. He’s added fakes in with his deep shots, which forces Kagami to jump multiple times in order to block him, if he can even make it. Because of that multiple Seirin players have to close in on him to defend. However, that’s been his plan. After experiencing defeat, Midorima has stopped playing alone and started relying on his teammates. His plan is now to draw the Seirin defense to him and pass the ball, something his teammates where surprised that Midorima would even suggest. The move takes Seirin by surprise as well, but Kiyoshi’s calming presence keeps them from losing their composure. They also bench Kuroko, who’s misdirection is being kept in check by Shutoku’s point guard, Kazunari Takao. Takao has the ability to use Hawk Eye (a more powerful version of Seirin’s Eagle Eye) which allows him to see Kuroko even if he uses misdirection.
Even with the changes, Seirin has no idea how to completely stop Shutoku. So, they decide to keep up with their scoring instead. So, Kiyoshi and Hyuga decide to revert back to the team’s old way of playing. It’s a fast paced “Run and Gun” style offense that’s based around their inside and outside play. The older Shutoku members recognize this as Seirin’s true offense that they had been famous for playing when Kiyoshi was healthy. However, the flow of the game is taking its toll on Seirin and Shutoko shows off that they’ve grown as an entire team. However, this has all been going on with Kuroko on the bench. He spends most of the middle of the game on the bench observing and figuring out how to best use his new technique.
Seirin brings Kuroko back in in the 3rd quarter of the game and he immediately takes on Midorima one on one. Shutoku is confused by the move because they know that Kuroko can’t beat Midorima. However, Kuroko has finally perfected his vanishing drive and uses it to bypass Midorima and set up Kiyoshi for an easy dunk. The revelation of the new technique flusters Shutoku and Seirin erases an eight point deficit to tie the game at 76 at the end of the 3rd quarter. The intermission shows that both teams are reaching their limit but neither is willing to give. The game flies by in a montage of recycled clips from the earlier plays but everyone watching the game is mesmerized by the action, wishing it would never end. Eventually, there are 25 seconds left and Seirin is down by 1. Kuroko manages to pull of his vanishing drive and gets Kiyoshi the ball. However, Kiyoshi’s injured leg flares up and causes him to hesitate, giving Midorima enough time to close in on him. Kiyoshi manages to get Midorima to foul him and goes to the line for two shots. He makes the first, but misses the 2nd when he feels his leg again. Kagami gets the rebound and goes up for the game winning shot, but Midorima meets him in mid-air and the two struggle over the shot. Before either of them wins, the clock runs out and the game ends in a 104-104 tie. Because the game ends in a tie, Seirin will to win their last game against Kirisaki Daichi in order to guarantee that they make it to the Winter Cup along with Shutoku.
This game shows Kagami’s growth and his ability to stand against a member of the Generation of Miracles for an entire game. This game also debuts one of Kuroko’s new techniques: the “Vanishing Drive”. The show had teased the drive several times before, but Shutoku is the first time we see Kuroko use it in a game. We also got to see the growth of the Shutoku team, not just Seirin. I think that’s one of the great things about this show is that it doesn’t just feature the Seirin players. There’s even a scene after the game ends where Midorime, Kise and Momoi are all talking together before finding Kuroko’s dog. It can make it hard to keep up with characters sometimes, but it does really help to add gravitas to the games without there having to be a “good guy” and a “bad guy”. This game really showed reverence to that fact by treating both teams equally throughout. Even having the game end in a tie felt like it was rewarding Shutoku and Midorima for their own growth.
The one problem I had with this game was the way that they recycled footage for the 4th quarter of that game. I get that the teams probably didn’t have anymore trump cards to throw out, but I still would’ve liked to see that part of the game played out instead of just a recycled montage. Still, it did drive the point home of that part of the game just being a seeming unending sequence of mesmerizing basketball. Still, that last sequence seemed like an appropriate way for the game to end. Really, Seirin had done enough to win the game, but it was Midorima’s new found drive to win that saved the game for Shutoku.