Forgive the Breakfast Club reference, but that’s exactly what the Celtics gave the Bulls in director John Hughes’ favorite locales: a common basketball set called HORNS.
Conceptually, it’s pretty simple: a point guard starts with the ball at the top of the three-point line with the two bigs at opposite sides of the free throw line. Almost every team runs some version it and for the Celtics, it’s a great set for their versatile roster. It’s effectiveness relies on how each player in the trio reads the defense. If a defender sinks into the paint, it could set up for a re-screen and an open 3. If the defense tries to hedge and trap the ball handler, it could free up an uncontested rim run.
In the second quarter with predominantly the second unit in the game, Boston ran it almost exclusively with Terry Rozier at the point and Gordon Hayward and Guerschon Yabusele in the front court.
Hayward reads Robin Lopez sinking deep into the paint, almost to the restricted area before he even makes a move. That’s easy pickings for a wide open mid-range jumper.
This time, it’s Rozier’s defender, Ryan Arcidiacono, who goes under the pick and leaves him open for a 3. Yabu re-sets another screen and the Celtics get that gravity-shifting paint touch that they look for on every offensive trip.
Here’s yet another variation of HORNS. With Chicago staying at home with their coverage, Hayward comes off two screens and puts the Bulls in a pick-your-poison decision: Hayward has the choice of hitting Yabu on the roll or Rozier for the top of the arc three-pointer.
Instead, Hayward hits Jayson Tatum with the cross court pass right into his shooting pocket and Tatum hits the corner 3.
Kyrie Irving and Daniel Theis replace Rozier and Yabusele to finish the half, but it’s the same action. After fumbling the entry pass to Hayward, Theis recognizes how far up the defense is playing. He sets a hard screen Irving and now Kyrie is in a favorable one-on-one matchup with the back-pedaling Lopez.
HORNS wasn’t the only offensive set that lead to Boston’s 56-point win in Chicago, but it’s a microcosm of how effective the Celtics’ offense has started to become with rotations being solidified and players developing familiarity and chemistry with one another.