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Explain One Play: Draymond Green passes for layups

Two nice assists from Draymond for layups in the Blazers-Warriors game on Apr 3 2016. Also, the Three Man Game version of an old play to fight Switching defenses.

S Dot and Big Smokey converted Draymond passes.
S Dot and Big Smokey converted Draymond passes.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a spirited Blazers effort, the Warriors walked away with a nice victory.

Draymond Green got a triple double in tonight's Blazers-Warriors game, and he didn't even need to go stat hunting. They happened in the flow of the offense, with his effort especially important with the absence of Andrew Bogut.  He mentioned at halftime with Ros that he'd need to make more plays without Bogut's running of the "split cuts" (what we call the post-cross here: Explain One Play: Klay ties it, Curry wins it).

Here are two nice assists from Draymond from the game, both coming out of HORNS. This is a set where two smalls go to the corners and two bigs set up around the elbows of the free throw line.

HORNS is a pretty common format in the NBA, but the Warriors don't run it that often. It's more a format for a few set plays, a few held over from the Mark Jackson era. Despite that, we've actually covered HORNS plays a whopping 12 times already (search The Explain One Play series index). In these cases, they are the first offensive plays after a time out, so you know these are planned plays.

1. HORNS Lob

This is a quick play, so don't blink.  Let's first show a couple of previous versions of this play. See if you can catch the pattern.

By coincidence, we have the same crappy camera angle on both plays. The core of the play is very simple. The ball starts up top. That player passes to the left elbow or wing, and quickly cuts off a back screen from the right elbow. In these cases, this action got open alley-oop dunks.

Now let's roll tonight's play.  They run the play on the right side of the court, but the essence is the same:

Shaun Livingston throws it to Draymond and immediately cuts to the basket off the back screen at the right elbow by Stephen Curry. That's a firm screen by Mr. Curry. He really doesn't get enough credit for his rebounding or screening. (He's starting to get grudging credit for his defense by all but the ignorant.)

2. HORNS Double Cut

This play comes with 5:20 left in the game, and the Blazers have sliced the lead to 9. What better time to try out a new play? I dig this play, and I've never seen the Warriors run it before.

First, here is probably the most common HORNS play the Warriors run. There are some preliminaries, but the Warriors end up in HORNS, the ball goes to a big (here Harrison Barnes) at the left elbow, and Klay Thompson curls from the opposite corner up around the right elbow screen and gets a catch-and-shoot shot.

So, tonight we see a twist on this play. You'll see the Warriors go into HORNS and the ball gets tossed to Draymond at the right elbow, and you'll see Klay curl around the left elbow screen by Brandon Rush. But Klay doesn't pop out for the catch-and-shoot. Instead...

Two twists. First, Klay cuts hard to the basket instead of spotting up for a catch-and-shoot. This is not unusual and is a natural counter to being the defense overplaying the three point shot. Second, before Klay cuts, Curry goes first into the lane with a backdoor cut, and then turns back for apparently no reason.

Why? Three Man Games vs Switching

Why would they do this? If you've been following this series, you know that in the last couple of weeks the league has gone to an aggressive switching defense against the Warriors. It's tiring, being the hunted!  All the teams in the damned league are forming a League of Supervillians to combine forces against the Dubs.  Anyway, the Warriors have been steadily complicating their offense to counter the switching, and the last five articles have been about their adjustments fighting the Switching. (The kickoff article and manifesto is at Explain One Play: Curry & Green punish switches.)

Why would the Warriors complicate this sweet little HORNS Curl play for Klay (dissected at Explain One Play: Klay curls a go-ahead three)?  Because if the defenders switch assignments as Klay curls, that will defuse the danger of the play. In this specific case, imagine if Brandon Rush's defender (Al-Farouq Aminu) switched onto Klay and Klay's defender, (C.J. McCollum) switched on to Brandon Rush? On a vanilla HORNS Curl, Klay would have to post up against Aminu or reset and isolate against him, which would gunk up the flow of the offense.

But in this HORNS Double Cut version, look where Curry is. He has turned around and is precisely in position to screen Aminu in case he switches on to Klay. That would have required Curry's defender Damian Lillard to immediately switch on to Klay and for Aminu to switch (again!) on to Curry. This kind of triple switch is not easy to do, especially with Lillard and McCollum being inconsistent at defense.  This is another example of the Warriors complicating their offense by playing a Three Man Game, forcing three defenders to coordinate their switches instead of a mere two defenders coordinating a yes-no switch decision.

Final Thoughts

The lineup in the last clip is Curry - Klay - Leandro Barbosa - Brandon Rush - Draymond, so in HORNS the Bigs are only Bigs in function, not size. Without checking, I'd imagine the number of minutes for this lineup this year is very small. But without Bogut, Festus Ezeli and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors experimented with this interesting Small Ball Lineup of Chaos.

Also, one of the season's subplots is the constant attempts to dump ice water on the players during the post-game interviews. Here is a freaking masterful move from Curry on Draymond, who was approaching him stealthily for an ambush.

Over the shoulder, backwards, no-look towel toss, a direct hit on Draymond's ice water cup, drenching him, all while doing a TV interview. MVP!

And Curry comments:

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.

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