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Explain One Play: David West to a Klay Thompson backdoor layup

The veteran David West really stepped up to help the Warriors avoid a back-to-back loss against the Timberwolves on Dec. 11, 2016.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Utah Jazz
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

David West had a nice game to steady the Warriors in the fourth quarter of a sloppy, tired, jagged game. His defense was sturdy and he had far fewer of the reckless fouls we’ve seen before. In the end, he was +13, meaning the W’s were -5 without him playing tonight. In appreciation of David West’s best game as a Warrior, let’s look at a couple of nice plays.

When David West plays, the Warriors tend to use him as the decision-maker out of the HORNS formation. This is where the ball starts up top, two bigs stand at each elbow — on each end of the free-throw line — and two smalls stand in the corners. This also happens to be the number-one formation that the Warriors use to get Klay Thompson shots, and West and Thompson are starting to develop some chemistry.

For instance, here is the prototypical Thompson HORNS play from last year. Be patient ... the Warriors tend to disguise HORNS by starting off passing across the top, which looks like the Spurs’ Motion Offense (compare Explain One Play: Barnes tries to be not "terrible"). But eventually you’ll see bigs at the elbows, smalls at the corners:

Thompson loves curling up around a screen for a catch-and-shoot. So to prevent defenses from overplaying Thompson to pop out for a 3, the Warriors have this variation. It’s motion into HORNS again, but instead of Klay popping out to catch, he does this:

He curls and dives towards the basket. Easy layup.

And here’s one from earlier this year where David West runs the show from the HORNS left elbow. It’s one of a wave of backdoor cuts that the Warriors have used to surprise defenses. Defenses are overplaying the perimeter passes and plays to pop out a shooter for a catch-and-shoot jumper, so this is a natural counter — and so far an effective one. I don’t think Thompson has seen so many open layups in his life.

West waits to see if Thompson can sneak to the basket behind the back of his defender. He can. Very nice touch on that pass. We’ve seen from above that Thompson can use the elbow screen in many ways, so his defender will be sometimes distracted by the screens looming.

And here’s one from tonight:

This one is pretty straightforward. West gets the ball, Thompson cuts hard off a backscreen from Kevin Durant at the right elbow. West feeds Thompson the nice pass. If Thompson wasn’t open, I suspect the next option would have been to pass to Durant who would have the whole right side of the floor empty to work in isolation on his defender.

Final Quiz

What is the offense formation the ‘Wolves use in this clip?

Come on, you knew what was coming, didn’t you?

The ‘Wolves use HORNS, and a pretty simple play at that. Karl-Anthony Towns sets a quick cross-screen for Andrew Wiggins, which forces David West to switch to Wiggins. Wiggins backs up to get a running start isolation but West contains Wiggins and rejects the jumper. Notice how savvy veteran Shaun Livingston helps contain Wiggins by guarding West’s left flank — helping way off of ‘Wolves rookie Kris Dunn, who has not shot well in the pros.

If this play looks familiar, it's because you saw it a lot when the Warriors tried to make this the Harrison Barnes play, and we dissected it carefully at Explain One Play: Barnes tries to be not "terrible", tracing it all the way back to the Seven Seconds Or Less Suns.

If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for almost every Warriors’ win since 2015 — check out the rest of the series of Explain One Play articles. For the full, updated index, go to The Explain One Play series index.

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