With Kawhi Leonard likely out for the season, the Los Angeles Clippers started the season between a rock and a hard place.
However, thanks to Paul George’s excellent start and some coaching genius from Ty Lue, the Clippers find themselves with a 13-12 record in early December. Sure, George’s escapades have helped the Clippers remain competitive, but it is Lue who has set up his squad to be a rough opponent night after night, and now he’s starting to get the recognition he deserves.
Following the Clippers’ victory over their rivals the Los Angeles Lakers, superstar LeBron James, who played under Lue during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, spoke of his coaching ability.
“T-Lue is great, simple as that. Obviously, you guys know I played for him, and then what we was able to do. T-Lue is great; he’s great at every facet of the game. As a coach, he doesn’t have a weakness,” LeBron James told the media.
LeBron’s comments came directly after his team lost to the Clippers, but Lue was earning plaudits for a different reason just a few days later. Against the Portland Trail Blazers, Lue drew up multiple plays that provided his team with the requisite space and scoring opportunities to gain a stranglehold on the contest and eventually come out of the game victorious.
Iverson Cut Horns Cross/Screen-the-Screener
An Iverson cut is where one player cuts from one wing to another, courtesy of screens around the elbows. Usually, a player will receive a screen on either side of the floor before reaching their destination; other times, the cutter, will only receive one screen, usually on the far side of their cut.
In one play on December 3, the offense began in a “horns” formation, with a big on either elbow and the ball-handler above the break. Luke Kennard executed an “Iverson Cut” to drag his defender across the floor. Paul George, who set the screen for Kennard, then received a screen from Isaiah Hartenstein, allowing the Clippers star play to occupy the defense before Hartenstein slipped his screen and ended up in oceans of space around the rim.
A “screen-the-screener” action is where a player who sets a screen then receives a screen themselves – like George in this play. However, had George not set the initial screen, you could label this play an “Iverson Horns Cross,” which, in all honesty, wouldn’t be incorrect.
This possession was a great play from the Clippers and showed an excellent understanding from Lue, both of his own player’s abilities and how the defense would react to each player’s movement.
Ty Lue Shows His Genius
As expertly broken down by Gibson Piper of Half Court Hoops, Lue’s play call for the Iverson Horns Cross was a play designed to counter the Trail Blazers defense after running a similar offensive possession just a few minutes earlier.
The original play was an “Iverson Out,” which looks very similar in execution but was designed to get George an easy look from the perimeter rather than to attack the space behind the defenders.
As Piper explains in his video, Lue recognized the defense was pushing up high on the screening play and took advantage of that by having Hartenstein slip his screen the next time the set was run.
Lue continues to impress the Clippers fan base with his ability to unite a roster and to maximize his player’s potential, in part due to play calling like the two sets shown above. While Leonard is recovering from injury, the Clippers will continue to battle for a favorable position within the Western Conference.
Still, when Leonard does eventually return to the floor, it should be no surprise that the Clippers will again be among the championship favorites. It may not be this season, but LA indeed isn’t owned by the Lakers, as many would have you believe.