On offense, the Portland Trail Blazers seem like a freewheeling, 3-point shooting, high-scoring bunch. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are front-and-center, running around screens, breaking down defenses, and taking deep shots from beyond-the-arc.
But it's not all reads off of the pick-and-roll and backdoor cuts in Portland. Coach Terry Stotts likes to let his best players operate within his Flow offense with relative freedom, but so too will he create intricate half-court sets based on the foundations seen in other modern NBA offenses.
One of those staples is a play formation called Horns.
If you’re a Blazers fan you’ve definitely seen Horns before. The basic setup for Horns -- which might just be Portland's most recognizable half-court set -- is as such:
- One point guard up top
- Two posts standing at the outer edge of the key at free throw line (called the elbows)
- Two wings in the far corners near the baseline
If you look at the set from above, it appears to take the shape of an animal with Horns, thus the name (visualize the point guard and the two posts making up the head and the lines out to each wing acting as the horns.)
Here’s a diagram of Horns, as seen from the baseline.
The Blazers run a lot of their sets just starting in this formation, or at least some close iteration of it. With Stotts, players might not be exactly in those every single time, so if you’re trying to key in on a play with Portland and aren’t quite sure, a pretty good indicator is if you have those two wing players outside the 3-point line, and below the free throw line.
Horns leads into some of the most common plays you’re likely used to seeing the Blazers run, including sets with Flare screens, some of their Weave sets, and basic pick-and-rolls.
Portland runs a lot of Horns so expect to see it often this season when the Blazers are operating out of the half-court set. Watch the video above to see the full breakdown and examples of plays the Blazers run with Horns.