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Explain One Play: Warriors Stop and Steal the Clippers' Favorite Play

Video analysis of one play from the Clippers-Warriors game.

I believe that counted for three points.
I believe that counted for three points.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

So far, in our One Play series on the Warriors playbook, we've looked at three Spurs plays (#1. Spurs Motion Strong#2. Spurs Hammer & Loop) and one broken pick and roll.  In honor of the recent Clippers game, we'll dive into a play that the Clippers have made famous: the High HORNS set.


As you may recall, HORNS is a formation which has two small shooters in the corners, and two bigs setting up in the high middle, with a ballhandler up top.  Every team in the league probably has run a HORNS play. (Here is a breakdown of the Kerr-era Warriors use of HORNS at #3.)

The way the Clippers run it, Chris Paul is up top and Blake Griffin (on Paul's left) and DeAndre Jordan (on Paul's right) set a two sided screen high above the three point arc.  Chris Paul then chooses to gets a pick and roll on one of the sides.  As you can imagine, this is a great play for them, as there is lots of space for Paul to operate and he has DeAndre rolling, Blake popping out for jumpers or a lob to DeAndre, and basically a buffet of plays for their three best players, with open corner 3s if someone comes to help.

The Warriors Defending High Horns

We'll show the Clippers running it in a moment.

The Warriors have developed an interesting approach to guarding the set. They put Harrison Barnes on Blake and Draymond Green on DeAndre.  If Paul comes out Green's side, then Draymond sags off DeAndre to contain Paul. If Paul comes out Barnes's side, Barnes "shows", meaning he jumps out to make Paul take a long route so Curry can recover.  It makes sense that Barnes stays closer to his big, since Blake is a threat to hit an open jumper, while DeAndre is only a threat to hit passers-by with an open jumper.

In this following play, watch how the Warriors play the double screen (twice) and then make fantastic rotations to cover the open player.

  • Paul takes the DeAndre screen...
  • and hence Draymond sags back to contain Paul's drive, while Curry does a fantastic job of staying with Paul,
  • so Paul resets and Blake and DeAndre set a new double screen for Paul, including a nice hip check from DAJ. Paul comes out Blake's side...
  • and hence Barnes jumps out to stop Paul from turning the corner. Paul passes to the temporarily open Blake.
  • Interestingly, Curry does not switch, leaving Blake open. He seems confident that Barnes can recover with speed to bother Blake, and that works.
  • Then when Barnes jumps himself out of the play, Curry switches nicely to Blake.
  • Blake passes to Paul, so Klay jumps out to cover him.
  • Paul passes to Jamal Crawford. So Andre has to rotate. Notice how Draymond pre-emptively starts rotating to the open Pierce in the corner, which triggers Barnes (who has finally made his falcon landing) to switch to DeAndre. Also notice how Andre jumps to cut off the pass to the corner 3. So Jamal has to drive to the hoop.
  • Green switches to cuts off Jamal's drive, so Jamal makes the right pass to Pierce, but notice how Andre Iguodala has already switched onto Pierce as soon as he sees Green go to Crawford.
  • Pierce misses a tough contested shot. Unfortunately, DeAndre gets the rebound but you can't win them all.

The Moral of the Story

Both teams played this sequence well.

  • The Clips expertly reset the double pick and roll after it is first stopped.
  • Curry made a great play to stop the first drive. I stand by my claim that Curry is now excellent at defense.
  • Then the Clippers rotated the ball crisply to find the open man and forced the Warriors to scramble and rotate.
  • But the Warriors have become outstanding switchers and rotate perfectly. The communication and cooperation is just beautiful.

The Warriors Running High Horns

The Warriors occasionally run this play and Curry usually runs the play well.  Draymond Green and Barnes sets screens as the high bigs, and Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala spot up for threes in the corners.

What we will see here is not a good example of the play -- besides the fact that it won the game -- because Curry completely takes all the subtlety and art out of the play by cutting it short.  Let's roll it:

Oops, wrong no-subtlety death blow. Here's the real play:

  • Come on, son. You can't tell me that's a good basketball play.  You can't.  You're down 1 with just over a minute in the game, you set up a nice high HORNS play to get a high quality shot for 2....   and you just chuck it from 30 feet with 17 seconds on the shot clock and a good shot blocker closing out?
  • Certainly Curry's most cold-blooded shot since Finals Game 5 fourth quarter when he came back at Lebron's lucky 3 with a shake and bake three to retake the lead.
  • I'm sure Kerr played out a whole NO NO ... GOOD SHOT sequence from home (like his reaction after Curry's dribbling through the Clippers team)
  • I mean, what other player could risk that shot and not be crucified in the press?  Kobe? Carmelo? Even Lebron? Maybe just maybe Durant could get away with it.
  • And yet... can you really tell Steph not to take that shot, when he's hitting 48.8% of his threes, with probably half of them long bombs off the dribble? Steph Curry is exploding the boundaries of what counts as a good shot in this league and it feels weird. Exhilarating but weird.
Finally, it's really extra rude to slay the Clippers with their own play in this fashion. It's almost like a satire of their offense.  I mean, the Clippers don't run the Warriors Weave and end it with Blake suddenly dunking from the three point line. I'm sure Steph Curry is sorry and he'll rectify it this season.

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