By Fawzan Amer
Oftentimes throughout an NBA game both coaches can be seen on either sideline pacing and shouting words to players such as "Open," "Red," "Blue" and countless other defensive and offensive play calls. In the middle of a bad stretch, or if the clock is winding down in a tight game, the decisions and play calls from coaches magnifies the intensity. Do you get the team together and draw up a play, or let the action unfold naturally? Whether or not to call a timeout is a split-second decision that has both positive and negative rippling effects. One of the biggest decisions of Head Coach Jamahl Mosley's early coaching career was to keep his team's final two timeouts in his back-pocket in a tie game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Mosley had two timeout lefts, but turned down the opportunity to stop the game and call a play. The sophomore coach elected to let the action run in the hands of his 2022-23 Rookie Of The Year recipient Paolo Banchero, who sized up three separate Pelicans defenders in the span of the final 3:45 minutes nailing one clutch bucket after another.
There are a number of ways each coach can impact the game, from rotation decisions to in-game adjustments. Yet early in his career the magnifying glass has been on timeout usage, where Jamahl Mosley has faced questions in back-to-back seasons.. Timeouts are often used to halt play in order to communicate with your players and give instruction that could affect the game's outcome, including drawing up plays against certain defensive coverages the opposing team is running in order to counter-adjust for go ahead buckets to end a dry-spell.
This past season the Orlando Magic had 1,057 possessions after-timeouts (ATOs)
If you see Jamahl Mosley take a sheet of paper out of his pocket during a timeout, it's most likely the ATO card tailor-made by his assistants for each specific game. This article will unlock your eyes to some of those ATO play calls that find themselves on the play-sheet more often than others.
Horns Double Gap: The most common after timeout play call Jamahl Mosley utilized throughout the season was enabled due to the flexibility at the five spot due to Wendell Carter Jr's ability to handle the ball for someone of his size. The following play call designed below unlocks easier access for Wendell to put the ball down and attack opposing defenders as a slasher, wearing them out inside.
The formation of the Horns Double Gap play begins in the Horns alignment with two Magic players placed at either side of the elbows, two players in at the corners spacing (normally the better shooters) daring opposing defenders to account for a potential catch-and-shoot opportunity while the point guard initiates the ball.
RJ Hampton the primary ball handler in the action feeds Wendell Carter Jr an Elbow entry bounce pass, as soon as Carter Jr secures the pass the opposite elbow man (Chuma Okeke) clears through creating a double gap. With Caleb Houstan stashed in the strong-side corner his defender doesn't commit to helping at the rim. As Chuma Okeke clears through to the weak-side corner Bol Bol is in position to set an exit screen should Gordon Hayward chase Okeke to the corner. These sequence of events allow Wendell Carter Jr a one-on-one opportunity against Hornets big man Nick Richards to drive to his left for a routine warm-up layup.
Jamahl Mosley and Orlando's staff did an excellent job throughout the course of the season placing players in optimal positions to ensure success. Every time, Orlando called out Horns Double Gap this past season for the 24 year-old Duke product he was placed on the right side of the elbow entry pass in order to finish going left where he's most comfortable finishing around the rim. 91 of Wendell's 114 points on drives in 2022-23 stemmed from going left. He attempted 64 shots driving from the left converting on 54.7 percent of his opportunities, including this Horns Double Gap set from the left once again where he took the bump down low and pivoted back right into a fade over the top.
Though the Orlando Magics' main starting point of the Horns Double Gap ATO is designed for big man Wendell Carter Jr they also utilized the 6 foot 10, 249 pound rookie in the same variation with a slight twist. Paolo Banchero's strong side is his right hand finishing so the elbow entry pass occurs from the left handed side.
Cole Anthony initiates the play with the left elbow entry pass -- Wendell Carter Jr clears through to provide Paolo Banchero ample space to attack the basket with his right one-on-one against Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins. As Carter Jr clears to the weak-side corner Franz pushes Dejounte Murray up setting an exit screen. In both plays the low man Clint Capela and Gordon Hayward are late to react and don't jump with either Carter Jr or Banchero at the rim resulting in easy buckets for Orlando's offense.
In this final Horns Double Gap ATO example the Magic ran this set twice for Paolo Banchero on consecutive possessions against the Washington Wizards. The first one was right after a timeout to help stop the bleeding as the Magic found themselves staring at a 13 point hole with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter on the road. Once again they place Paolo Banchero on the left side of the elbow with Carter Jr clearing and Markelle Fultz going over top. The rookie sensation uses his near seven foot wingspan to take the bump, showcases his elite footwork in the paint to step-through for an easy basket inside against Rui Hachimura.
The following play Orlando flows into the same Horns Double Gap set off a Wizards miss. Wendell Carter Jr clears through but this time there's no exit screen from the guard to the big and Carter Jr doesn't work his way back fully to the weak-side corner. Paolo stares off the low man (Taj Gibson) and despite having a driving lane similar to the previous play he elects to isolate Rui Hachimura at the top of the key instead. Banchero gets a decent look and raises up from 17 feet but his shot rattles in and out.
Second year Head Coach Jamahl Mosley's other most utilized after-timeout play call this season was called Pistol - Out Entry, Punch Keep. The play has four elements;
DHO between the point guard and the weak-side corner
Down Screen for the curling player
Pistol Action between the player that receives pass after down-screen
Keep Action by the big in Pistol formation
The play begins with a dribble hand-off to the player stashed in the corner of the three-point line (Franz Wagner) . As soon as the player receives the dribble hand-off, a down-screen occurs for the second player (Terrence Ross). As the player coming off the down screen curls back around Orlando sets up what's commonly known as "Pistol Action". The signal for this is a pistol sign -- (gun signal with your hand). The basic premise of the set is designed for the big to be free-throw line extended, almost splitting between the three-point line and the charity stripe. Being available for the pass on the "out entry", this sequence can flow into multiple reads and actions such as another DHO or backdoor, however, Orlando spams the keep option in their Pistol sets. As seen below, the former seventh overall pick fakes and keeps to score down low at the rim against Javale McGee.
Jamahl Mosley kept this play in his back pocket for a while as it wasn't utilized much during his rookie season as Head Coach in Orlando. The Magic also ran Pistol - Out Entry, Punch Keep successfully twice last season against the man who groomed Mosley, Rick Carlisle's defense. Up four with just over four minutes left to play in the first half, after burning a timeout Orlando went to the coveted set. The video cuts off the dribble hand-off between Markelle Fultz and two guard Gary Harris. This time, sophomore Franz Wagner setting the down-screen for Paolo Banchero as him and Wendell Carter Jr flow into the "Piston Action". Carter Jr fakes it to Banchero which gets Indiana Pacers center Isaiah Jackson to bite enough to allow a rim-run drive to the hoop for a thunderous slam.
Earlier in the season with most of the Magic roster bewildered by injuries Jamahl Mosley called the Pistol - Out Entry, Punch Keep play for Admiral Schofield. The play initiated by R.J Hampton flows into the DHO variation to begin the play with starting two-guard Gary Harris. Making quick and calculated decisions like this goes a long way toward becoming a key cog within this offense. Two-way guard Kevon Harris seemed a bit lost at the play call and failed to set a proper down-screen as show in the two examples above. The Human Torch being as blazing fast as he is managed to create enough space to go into the second phase of the play. In this uber small ball lineup had on the floor, Admiral sold the fake-back to Terrence Ross so well that his defender was left staring at the result of the play. Indiana's low man helper attempted to draw a charge but a nifty up and under acrobatic layup by the former Tennessee Volunteer tacked on two points regardless.
While the Magic weren't a particularly good half-court offense, they still do utilize some actions in the half-court that aim to get their best players to their preferred spots. The lesson here is that many coaches in the league will run similar plays. But knowing when to call them, against which types of defenses and with the right type of personnel, is what will separate Jamahl Mosley from the pack as he looks to catapult the Orlando Magic into the playoffs for the first time as Head Coach.
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