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Trail Blazers "Thumb Fist" Playbook Breakdown

The second action in Portland's Thumb series gets the video breakdown treatment from Dane Carbaugh.

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Last week we tackled the first set in a series the Portland Trail Blazers run called "Thumb Up". It was the quickest and perhaps the most recognizable sequence from the Thumb series.

Today we’re going to find out how Damian Lillard’s ability to get to the rack helps gets him score points for himself and get buckets at the arc for his teammates with a play called "Thumb Fist".

Fist is simply the next option in the Thumb series when the quick elbow flare 3-pointer is not available to the Blazers.

Let's dive into the next action in Thumb as we appreciate how Terry Stotts' offensive actions flow into one another.

The Setup

It starts with the same Horns formation as before, with two posts at the elbows and two wings in the corner. I’ve used stars to represent the two players we should be focusing on here in Thumb Fist.

The first action is the same as Thumb Up, with one of the wings moving up from the corner on a pin down to receive a pass from the point.

Once the wing has reached the elbow and received the pass from the point guard, the opposite wing will run down the baseline to clear space and re-balance the floor.

This all follows the same formula as Thumb Up, because it is of course part of a read and react style of offense.

The Flip

The power forward is now ready to set his flare screen for the SG (or SF) once he flips the ball back to the point.

Once this action is completed and a pass cannot be sent back for a 3-pointer off the flare, it's time to move into the pick-and-roll.

The Pick-and-Roll

After significant motion by several offensive players, Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum will often take advantage of this pick-and-roll now that space has been cleared down low and defenders are sweating.

Portland likes to set this play up with one of their big men who can shoot, so you’ll see two outcomes from this pick-and-roll.

The Options

Given that both Lillard and McCollum are two of the best penetrators in the NBA, the point in this play often just takes it to the hole.

When the play is run with one of the Blazers' jump-shooting big men, it's a great setup for a quick 3-pointer or a simple jumper to punish overeager defenses.


Remember, these are all flowing options that can be setup ahead of time or read as the defense reacts to the normal actions of the set.

There are tons of variations to this set and how it is run, and these are just the basic options. Keep your eyes peeled the next time you watch a game and see what other ways the Blazers move into scoring actions with this same basic setup.

Next week we will cover the final play on the base series called "Thumb Punch" and talk about the rest of the set.

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