The Lakers’ Deadly Horns Set

While the season has been quite disappointing for the Lakers, there have been a couple of bright spots that have made this team fun.  They haven’t been like many sub-.500 teams that look absolutely lost on offense. In fact, they have been running some very effective sets and it’s helped their offense remain in the top 10 in efficiency.  One such set features two men in the high post, otherwise known as Horns.  They have a number of creative options out of this setup, three of which we’ll break down here.

Flex Action

This set begins with Steve Nash entering the ball to Pau Gasol on one elbow.  He then sprints to the corner to set a flex screen for Metta World Peace.  Nash is a surprisingly good screener and his screening can be an integral part of the LA offense a la John Stockton.

In this situation World Peace has two options.  He has to read the defense to decide which to go to.  His first option is to cut baseline for an open layup if his defender is defender is on his top of the key hip.  The pass from the man in the high post isn’t easy and you’ll see it flubbed on a nightly basis, but Pau Gasol is one of the best elbow passers in the league and can consistently convert this.

If MWP isn’t open when he cuts baseline another sequence of actions is set off.  Dwight Howard sets a pindown screen for Steve Nash which will result in an open jumper (as Nash’s defender would be occupied with MWP), a Howard deep post up on a smaller defender (if Howard and Nash’s men switch), or a two man game between the two. Any of these options is advantageous for the Lakers. Nash is one of the best shooters in NBA history. Howard is extremely effective in the post. Their two man game would feature maybe best pick and roll ball handler in NBA history with the 13th best roller this season according to mySynergySports. Yikes.

If World Peace’s man overplays the baseline side, he can cut up towards the top of the key.  He takes staggered screens from Nash and Howard for an open jumper.  The Lakers like to run this with either World Peace or Kobe Bryant in the corner, both skilled off screen players (1.33 and 1.17 points per play, respectively, per Synergy).  Here are a couple examples of this happening:

Quick Hitting Flare Screen

This play begins the same way as the prior one, only with the ball entered to Kobe Bryant at the elbow rather than Pau.  Nash begins his cut to the corner again, but this time he tails off and takes a flare screen from Robert Sacre (!) for an open shot.  A lot of times Nash’s defender will be sagging so that they are ready for the baseline cut from the man in the corner.  The quick flare is an effective counter for the sagging.  Examples of this play:

4/5 Pick and Roll

This play is incredibly simple, but can devastate opponents.  When Gasol gets the ball at the elbow, he begins dribbling towards Howard who is setting a screen for him.  It is essentially just a low pick and roll between the power forward and center.  This play takes advantage of the opposing power forward’s inexperience defending a pick and roll ball handler, as well as Gasol’s handle and abilities as a passer. Pau can also hit the jumper and Howard is still a good roller although he hasn’t on par with his previous seasons.  If Gasol’s defender sags to stop Howard’s dive to the rim, Gasol can hit the J from 15-18 feet:

And if the opposing team doesn’t pay enough attention to Howard he can roll and get deep position or a lob:

It would be nice to see the Lakers run more horns.  It has been incredibly effective when they use it thus far and while offense hasn’t been Los Angeles’ main problem, it has been sliding.  Mike D’Antoni has run this kind of thing in the past and it will be interesting to see if he uses it more as the Lakers try to get back into the playoff picture.

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