Treys a Temporary Disinfectant

by Jeff Fogle 20. January 2011 01:40

Every team has games where they shoot over their heads from long range. It may "feel" like they've found a rhythm, or put all the pieces in place. But, you can't go 12 of 26 "on purpose" in the NBA. If you could, that would be the norm for the best three-point shooting teams rather than an occasional highlight.

The Dallas Mavericks went 12 of 26 from behind the arc in Wednesday Night's 109-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. When Heather Cox, in her postgame interviews on ESPN, asked Mavericks players want went right, they talked about getting healthy, playing with enthusiasm, having a positive energy. Nobody said:

"Well Heather, we just happened to get hot from long range. We made 12. They made 6. And, we only won by nine you can tell we must have been doing a few other things wrong. Our inside defense was lousy again. This may have been a one-game illusion. There's no reason to get excited."

Shooting 12 of 26 on treys is the same as shooting 69% on two-pointers. Good work if you can get it. In fact, Dallas has done this before. They shot exactly 12 of 26 twice against Orlando this year. They've hit 69% or better in effective field goal rate on treys five other times this season. But, two of those were 6 of 13 performance that don't have quite the same impact, and another was 7 of 15. Hitting double digits in treys with a percentage that high is a rare event.

That rare event helped Dallas end a six-game losing streak (and a 2-9 skid their last 11 games).

I don't want to suggest that Dallas is really a poor team and this was a lucky night. They ARE back to something resembling full strength. And, they were a very good team before the injury to Dirk Nowitzki. Just be aware that they let the Lakers shoot 58% from inside the arc. If Jason Kidd has his normal shooting game instead of hitting 5 of 8 on bombs, it's not a win for the Mavericks. They'll have truly returned to elite form when they don't need treys to win a game like this.

Lakers-Mavs was the only Superleague matchup on the 13-game Wednesday schedule (a showdown matching teams from the top dozen we selected for a study a few weeks ago). Dallas is a stellar 11-6 for the year in the Superleague (meaning they've had a lot of good wins without needing a ton of treys). The Lakers are just 5-5. Atlanta beat Miami Monday Night in a SL matchup. Atlanta is still a poor 5-9. Miami falls to 7-9, well off the pace of SL leaders Boston and San Antonio at 11-5.

Transition Points

*New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to pull his team out of the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes. He said he believed the recent distractions may have cost his team some victories.

Tough to make that case I think. New Jersey was 1-11 its last 12 games, with seven of the losses being by double digits, and nine of the 11 being by nine points or more. The only close loss was an overtime game in Phoenix. Let's say the distractions are worth 3-4 points per game (which is highly debatable to begin with, but we're just playing with some math). That turns the Phoenix game into a win in regulation but doesn't change anything else. Are off-court distractions worth TEN points? For a team that was bad to begin with and was playing a lot of road games against superior opposition?

New Jersey did respond well tonight, with a 103-95 home win over Utah. That might be more impressive if the same Utah team didn't just lose two days ago by a similar 108-101 score to lowly Washington. And, fitting today's theme, it would have been more impressive if the Nets hadn't won treys 8-5 (+9 points in a game they won by eight), with a 50% mark on 8 of 16 shooting that equates to an inflated 75% in effective field goal percentage.

Here are New Jersey's treys by game going back the last 19 before tonight:

Big jump from their recent norm...

*The recent norm of the New York Knicks has taken a turn for the worse. They lost again tonight in Houston, 104-89. Remember when they carried a 13-1 run into that national TV game with Boston that had the media abuzz? The loss to Boston that night has triggered a 6-10 stretch that's put at least a temporary halt to talk of championship basketball returning to the Big Apple.

It's also slowed down the talk of Amare Stoudemire as an MVP candidate. The Knicks are just 22-19 now, and you don't win an MVP on a team that's barely over .500.

Oh, a fall to .500 could be in the cards:

Friday: at San Antonio
Saturday: at Oklahoma City
Monday: vs. Washington
1/27: vs. Miami
1/28: at Atlanta

Four Superleague games, and a couple of back to back sequences vs. quality opposition. You pencil in 1-4, and we're looking at 23-23 in about a week. Gut check challenge for the Knicks, off of losses to Sacramento, Phoenix, and Houston. 

*Blake Griffin will finally be on national TV again Thursday Night, as the Los Angeles Clippers make their first foray outside the state of California in a few weeks for a TNT game in Portland. Both teams are on night two of a back-to-back. The Blazers had to go extra time Wednesday in Sacramento. The Clips starters didn't burn many minutes in a win over Minnesota.

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1/21/2011 2:52:39 AM #


Your article inspired me to check how many times a team hits 10+ 3 pointers in a game these days. For the first half of the season there have been about 200 occurrences, a similar rate to the 400 seen for the entire last season. That is 200 occurrences in about 600 some games this season with 2 teams for about 1200 chances or about 1 in 6.

But in '05-06 there were only 300 for the full season with 2460 team chances and in 2000-1 it was only 131. So it has become it now 3 times the rate of 10 seasons ago and a third more than 5 years ago, though I guess still not quite "common"- yet. (It was higher with the experimental short line.)

Is the current rate near the peak? Has the rise in prominence of the 3 finally stopped or just paused?

I checked one more season, 2007-8 and found it had 441. Perhaps the peak has been reached but I am certain on this.

Crow United States

1/21/2011 3:02:12 AM #


2008-2009 had 436. So this stall out / slight decline is not just a one season thing. From 2008-9 to now it appears that a limit has been reached.

I didn't compile the data to look at FG% for these games but that would probably add to the understanding.  How often teams were hot vs just desperate. It would be easy enough to do with basketball-reference's team game finder files.

Crow United States

1/22/2011 1:26:19 AM #

Jeff Fogle

It might be a shortcut for the desperation side of things to just look at how often the worst dozen teams in the standings reach 10 made treys in a game. My hunch is that the "Orlando model" type teams might be getting most of those 10-spots. Of course, if the worst dozen teams could hit 10 often, they wouldn't be the worst dozen teams!

Maybe something as simple as looking at a standard deviation from a team's average might trigger some outlier results that should be monitored. Making eight represents playing "over their heads" for New Jersey based on recent numbers, but obviously not for somebody like Orlando. Everyone has games they fall back to earth from...

Jeff Fogle United States

1/23/2011 12:40:59 AM #


Average makes per game seem pretty close to the same last and this season at about 6.5 per game so the long-term trend toward more 3s seems stalled for both  exceptional games and the average. It might pick back again since college with the zone packing the middle is mainly training 3 point shooters but there might be limits in the face of NBA rules and NBA athletes who can cover and run a fair number of 3 point lookers off the line.

Standard deviation from team average 3 point attempts and makes and 3 pt FG% overall and in wins and loss splits would indeed be useful data to help understand what they are trying and yielding in the overall scheme of things beyond or in-between the herky-jerky of individual games or the static season average.

In about 1 in 3 games one team or the other made 10+ this season so some combination of shooting a lot and getting hot from 3 is becoming fairly common. But most games have more than one storyline, as you said in the hypothetical player response. A big 3 attack will win some games but it may not be enough by itself.

Crow United States

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