The Cavaliers confuse Toronto’s aggressive defense to get a dunk
This is how Tristan Thompson got so open.
Given the Cavaliers‘ offensive firepower, you’re going to see this set run quite a bit as the season goes on. In fact, if you watched closely, you’d notice the Cavaliers ran the same alignment a couple plays earlier in their game against the Raptors. Why did it work so well in this case?
It starts with the setup. Cleveland makes it look like a pick and pop between Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, which is appropriate in this case. Toronto is one of the league’s most aggressive teams guarding the pick and roll; it asks a big man to trap the ball in an attempt to cause pressure. Because of that, Cleveland knows that when it swings the ball back to an open Love on the fade, Amir Johnson will be trailing the play. Thus, Tristan Thompson’s role is to set a flare screen to stop Johnson. Essentially, Thompson’s an obstacle in Johnson’s path.
But the play’s not done. Instead of setting a hard screen for Love, Thompson quickly turns and dives down the lane. This is important because the Raptors have two defenders out of the play and a third (Jonas Valanciunas) running to stop Love.
This puts Terrence Ross under the microscope. Either he rotates down to stop Thompson’s roll, or he stays with Dion Waiters on the wing. He chooses Waiters, a poor decision in hindsight, but one that’s incredibly difficult to make in real time.
And thus, Thompson gets a dunk. Great play, great execution.