One Play: The Cleveland Cavs’ Horns Play

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In last night’s Cavs-Celtics game, Cleveland surrendered their sixteen point first half lead. This led to a competitive end. Thus, during the second half of the fourth quarter, This resulted in Cavs’ coach Tyronn Lue unveiling a unique horns set.

At first glance, this seems like a simple play where Kyrie Irving is out of position. But much more is going on. So let’s break it down.

First, LeBron James passes the ball at the top of the key to Dwyane Wade. Then, Jae Crowder sets a quick off-ball screen for LeBron. After this, the real options begin.

More specifically

Three things can happen here: Kyrie gets mismatched against LeBron in the post; Jaylen Brown runs towards the basket to double LeBron, thus leaving Crowder open for the three; or finally, LeBron is given an open lane to the rim and help defense is expected to prevent him from scoring.

LeBron scores an open dunk because Boston’s defense does not rotate properly. Counterfactually, even if the Celtics did rotate, Derrick Rose would get an open lane to the rim, and guarding that would have led to an open Kevin Love three-pointer.

Version 2:

After the success on this play the first time, the Cavs ran it again with less than one minute remaining.

This time, LeBron is doubled in the post due to Boston’s help defense.

But, because LeBron sees the court at a historical level and a great cut to the basket by Derrick Rose, he easily finds the open Kevin Love.

Conclusion:

This set was a staple in Miami with Shane Battier replacing Jae Crowder, and for good reason. Opposing teams will need to sharpen their defensive rotations if they hope to defend it. Moreover, in order to be unpredictable, expect Cleveland to utilize variations of this play throughout the season.

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