How a smart play by Derrick Rose helped the Cavs beat Celtics on opening night

The opening night to the NBA season had two marquee matchups with two great finishes. Still, it was difficult to keep watching those games after Gordon Hayward's gruesome injury. Every leap, every awkward landing caused an audible gasp, and it will probably be that way for a while. But basketball was being played, so let's talk about basketball. 

Specifically, let's talk about how a smart play by Derrick Rose helped the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics on opening night. 

We'll pick things up late in the fourth quarter with 56.3 seconds remaining and LeBron James controlling the ball at the top of the key. The Cavs shift everyone to the right side of the floor. This is partly to keep the defense moving, and also to set up a LeBron post-up on the left side, which is coming a little later down the line. 

Once everyone has cut over to the right side of the floor, LeBron then initiates the action by dumping the ball into Dwyane Wade just above the elbow. Following this, Jae Crowder comes up from the block to set a back screen for LeBron. 

After setting the screen, Crowder pops out to receive a pass from Wade, while LeBron starts posting up down on the left block. Remember when the Cavs cleared everyone to the right side of the floor early on in the set? This is why they did that. Now, as LeBron posts up, he has pretty much the entire left side of the floor to work with. 

Jaylen Brown does a pretty good job of forcing LeBron to catch the pass while moving away from the basket, but Crowder still gets him the ball with relative ease. Of course, everyone in the gym knows the ball is going to LeBron here, so Marcus Smart leaves Rose to come help double LeBron. This leaves Al Horford to deal with both Rose and Kevin Love. At this point they're both hanging out in the corner, though, so it's not a big deal. 

As LeBron catches the ball from Crowder, he immediately pivots to the basket, and it appears for a second as though he's going to be able to split Smart and Brown, but the duo does a good job of standing him up in a double team. Here is where Rose's smart cut comes into play. 

With LeBron being doubled, Rose cuts from the weak side into the lane. So now Horford, who had to pay attention to both Rose and Love, has a decision to make. If he ignores Rose, the point guard might catch a pass and finish before Brown or Smart can get over to contest. But if he helps down to prevent a pass from Rose, he leaves a knockdown shooter wide open in the corner. 

After trying to play it down the middle for a second, Horford eventually takes one step too many toward the lane, which, honestly, you can't blame him for. It's a basketball player's natural instinct to protect the paint first and work back out to the 3-point line. Plus, it's a much easier pass for someone on the left block-extended to drop the ball to a cutter in the middle of the lane than to throw a skip pass on a rope to a guy in the opposite corner. 

Unfortunately for Horford, the guy throwing the pass was LeBron, who is not like most players. Spotting Love open, LeBron fires the ball right into his power forward's hands in the corner. Horford can't recover in time to contest, and Jayson Tatum, who was guarding Wade, is too far away to do anything either. 

Love takes his time and buries the 3 to put the Cavs up by four, which was enough to get them a hard-fought victory: 

Love will get most of the credit for making the shot, and LeBron will get some as well for throwing the pass, but don't forget about Rose's timely cut that helped make it happen. That was a prime example of the cliched "little things" that don't show up on a box score but help a team win. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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