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Explain One Play: Klay Thompson curls a go-ahead three

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This is a deep dive video analysis of the go-ahead play from the Hawks-Warriors game on Feb 22 2016. Klay Thompson hits a three off of his favorite set in the Warriors playbook.

"To make a basket, BE the basket, make your LIPS the basket."
"To make a basket, BE the basket, make your LIPS the basket."
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Fun game tonight. The Warriors blasted off with a focused, tough first half and then were blasted themselves with their unfocused bored third quarter. We saw peak Hawks in the 3rd Quarter with good teamwork and some hot shooting helping them erase a 23 point lead and go ahead.

This was trouble. The Warriors had to play their bench, and ATL had all the momentum. Then Klay Thompson came in, the defense firmed up, and Klay started canning some tough shots.

We will discuss the go-ahead bucket, a well-defended three pointer which Klay hits anyway. This is an example of possibly the most common play run for Klay.  It's a play pulled straight from the Seven Seconds or Less Suns (for a primer, look at Explain One Play: Harrison Barnes Tries To Be Not "Terrible"), one of the direct ancestors of the Warriors offense.

HORNS Curl or Elbow Away

I'm going to show you three clips of the play (hat tip to @HalfCourtHoops for his original compilation of Warriors plays) and let you see if you can figure out the play.  Each of these versions starts slightly differently, but they all eventually have the Warriors going into a HORNS formation: two bigs at each high corner of the free throw lane (the "elbows"), two smalls in the corners, and the ball up top.  (Seven Seconds or Less coach Mike D'Antoni called his HORNS sets Elbow plays, which is a MUCH more sensible name.)

See if you can see what the play is from these clips:

Okay, the play is this. The Warriors go into HORNS formation. The ball starts up top. The top passes to the the left elbow big and cuts right by him, apparently coming to get a handoff. While all this movement is happening on the left side, on the right side, the right small comes up from the corner and gets a screen from the right elbow big. (This screen stops the defender from coming up, so it's often called a "down screen" or a "pindown screen".)  The small curls around the pindown screen, and the left elbow big passes the ball for a catch and shoot.   It's much easier to see than to write about.

The end result is the Warriors go into HORNS, Klay starts low and curls up around an elbow screen and catches and shoots. It's most often run for Klay, though Stephen Curry was the curler in the last clip above.)

Klay Puts the Warriors Ahead For Good

Okay, back to tonight's game. The Warriors have stopped the bleeding and have drawn almost even with the Hawks. If they can just get over the hump and retake the lead, there's a sense that the Hawks might have punched themselves out with that tremendous third quarter.  So the Warriors go to the classic good old... well, here's the play.

HORNS Curl for Klay, again.

Klay's defender recovers pretty well to contest the shot, but Klay's release is just too quick.  Also, here is something underrated. Harrison Barnes is the left elbow big that passes. He has to time the pass so it leads Klay to the spot so he can catch and shoot right away. If the timing isn't perfect, there is no opening for shot, since Klay only gets a step of separation, since Andrew Bogut doesn't completely nail Klay's defender with the screen.

Luckily, this is the number one most popular action they run for Klay, the curl up around a pindown screen, so the Warriors have have had 1.5 years to practice the timing.

If you want to read more video breakdowns, 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.