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Explain 1 Play: Brandon Rush Rides Elevator for 3

Video breakdown of plays from the Warriors win against the Kings on Nov 28, 2015. 

Do I look good? Yeah, you look good.
Do I look good? Yeah, you look good.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

How about that Brandon Rush?  Today we're going to look at a highly photogenic play run for him called HORNS Elevator Doors, but first lets set up some context.

Brandon Rush, Then and Now

One of the fun things about following the Warriors is seeing how much the players pull for each other. Brandon Rush was once an above-average NBA role player, playing well in 2012 for the Warriors before he tore his ACL,  Rush hasn't really looked the same since then despite being available since the beginning of last season. Well tonight he just about matched his production from all the rest of his Warriors tenure combined.

Now that Barnes is injured, the question is who should start instead of Barnes. In our poll yesterday, I voted for Brandon Rush, but he only got 13%, a distant second to Andre Iguodala's 37% and barely squeaking out a lead over 11% voting for playing 4-on-5 for a challenge. Interim Coach Luke Walton opted for Brandon, to keep everyone else's role on the team the same, especially the second unit with Andre.

The first quarter with Rush looked, quite frankly, bad.  The Kings denied passes and switched all over and dared the Warriors to beat them with organization. Warriors failed. Only a mini-Stephen-Curry-flurry kept the game close in the 1st quarter.

When the third quarter started, the Warriors had a healthy ten point lead and proceeded to knockout the Kings with a stunning series of shots by Brandon Rush. In three and a half minutes, Rush poured in a dunk and 4 three-pointers for 14 points resulting in a 23 point lead and garbage time for the rest of the game.

Giving Rush the Klay Treatment, Part 1

How did Rush get his points?  After the dunk and two threes, which came in the flow of the offense, the team got delirious. Andre Iguodala made up a new dance (sort of a Sprinkle The World With Threes mamba), and the team started trying to set up Rush for scores.

I'm not sure I've seen the W's get so delirious in this way since, well, the last time the Kings visited Oracle Arena. You may remember that's when Klay went for an NBA-record 37 points in the 3rd. (If you are a new fan and don't know about that, search "Klay 37" on Youtube and have a great ride.)

In that period, the Warriors started doing everything they could to set Klay up for scores. Something very similar happened for Rush.  For instance, in this play, Stephen Curry gets an early offense high screen (refresher here) from Bogut with a shooter going to each corner. Curry pushes the turbo button and gets a layup right at the rim when suddenly...

Curry passes up a open layup to throw a pass to Rush in the corner, who swishes the three.  I ask you, can you imagine the real MVP James Harden giving up an open layup to set up freaking Sam Dekker?  Russell Westbrook passing up the highlight dunk to set up Cameron Payne?  It turns out there's a little more to MVP than racking up counting stats, and that's building team unity and joy.

Anyway, it's a questionable basketball play, but it's a wonderful basketball-team play.

Here it is as an animation. Notice again the high pick and roll, the shooters going straight to the corners, and how fast that #30 dude is.

Giving Rush the Klay Treatment, Part 2

Okay, here Rush quite literally will get the Klay treatment.  Do you remember when Klay had 32 points in that record-breaking 3rd quarter and he needed a couple of points to break the NBA record?  Do you remember what play the Warriors called for him? This is the play.

(Advanced Quiz: what is the opening formation called? and what is the colloquial name for this play?)

This play begins with two smalls in the corners, and two bigs at the elbows, with Curry with the ball up top feeding the ball to an elbow big. This is HORNS. (Recent refresher on HORNS here, plus check the index of Explain One Plays.)

In this HORNS play, Curry goes to screen for Klay in the left (video top) corner and gets the ball back. Klay fakes cutting to the basket and suddenly zipper cuts straight up the middle where the two elbow bigs slam together and shut the metaphorical elevator doors on Klay's pursuer. Klay cans the open 3.  Once you know the play, you know this call is 100% meant to get Klay a three from the top of the arc.

So what play did they call for Brandon Rush to keep his hot streak going, the one they hope will re-ignite some NBA-level confidence?  Roll tape.

HORNS Elevator Doors, again. Usual HORNS formation, two smalls in corners, two bigs at elbows. Rush starts in the left corner, Curry screens for him, Rush fake cuts to the basket and zipper cuts between the closing elevator doors. No chance for Rush's defender. Rush has eight feet of space and infinite time. He cans the open three.

(For a previous longer discussion of Elevator Doors and defending it, see this previous entry.) This play is a real commitment to a player. It chews up most of the shot clock and doesn't have any convenient counters if a door defender switches out or if the shooter gets bodied out of using the screen. It relies on trickery, so you can't run it every play (too bad).

And now view it as abstract moving dots. (The play starts at 8:00.)

Bonus Media

ESS has more nice quotes in his ESPN piece.

Final Thoughts

  • They don't need Rush to pour in points. They need solid D (looked a bit out of sync) and for him to hit open shots to keep the spacing right.
  • I thought about just showing video of how happy the other Warriors are for Rush. Even at the end of the Elevator Doors clip, you can see Klay holding up the OK-three sign and Curry starting to count out three (which he usually reserves for his four-point plays).
  • I'm currently reading 07 Seconds Or Less, the book on the proto-Warriors, the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns. It's interesting how much the team was sabotaged by not only mediocre defense, but psychological conflict from jealousy (Shawn Marion), laziness (Amar'e Stoudemire) and even selfless self-injury (Steve Nash).  May the Warriors togetherness be real and lasting.
  • I believe this HORNS Elevator Doors play dates back to the Mark Jackson era. (Some kind of Elevator Doors play certainly does.)
Update 8:25am: Hey, Badly Browned found a whole mixtape of Mark Jackson era HORNS Elevator.  I see two versions on this tape, the exact play above, and a sideline elevator play, highly related to this previous entry.

The Explain One Play Series So Far


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