I don’t think it takes advanced analytics or shot charts to see how the game has changed, although I was in denial about it for a few years.
In 2011, traditional basketball wisdom was turned on its ear as Dallas started winning playoff games primarily because of the difference between their three point shooting and their opponent’s three point shooting. Against the Lakers, Dallas overcame fourth-quarter deficits in the first two games. Overall, the Mavs made 34 more 3-pointers than the Lakers. In the game 4 rout, Stojakovic and Terry shot FIFTEEN out of SIXTEEN 3-pointers.
After that, they overcame a 15-point deficit with five minutes left in game 4 against the Thunder, and another fourth quarter deficit in game five to win the conference finals. Dallas made 16 more 3-pointers than OKC.
In the Finals, Dallas overcame a 15-point deficit with 7:13 left in game 2. During this span, Miami shot 1 for 8 from beyond the arc, while the Mavs hit 2 for 2 3-pointers. In the four games they won, the Mavs shot 42% from the 3-point line, compared to the Heat at 29.9%.
At the time, I thought we had just witnessed the strangest basketball anamoly in the history of the NBA.
Here’s a summary of the Finals since then and my thoughts at the time.
2012: Battier not only shot threes out of his ass (5 for 7 in the game, 15 for 26 for the series), he ended up on his ass, watching his triple bank off the glass to help clinch the game and prevent OKC from taking a 2–0 series lead.
Mike Miller finished game 5 by shooting 7 for 8 from beyond the arc. In Miami’s four wins, they shot 43% compared to OKC shooting 30%. It feels like there’s something wrong with the sport. How can players magically transform themselves and shoot way above their career percentages?
2013: The Spurs were the better team, but a flurry of missed free throws, 3-pointers, offensive rebounds and Ray Allen’s miracle shot saved the Heat. Miami had a one in a million chance to overcome a five point lead in the last 28 seconds of regulation. Basketball shouldn’t be like playing the lottery.
2014: The Spurs transformed into the Warriors before the Warriors really became the Warriors. In the first two and a half games, the Spurs shot 32 of 61 (52.4%), including 7 for 10 in a 71-point first half of the crucial game 3. With the Spurs outshooting Miami from deep (45.7% to 39.6%), the Spurs’ advantages inside made this series one of the worst blow outs ever. Hmmmm… if Pop is doing it, maybe this is the future of the sport.
2015: Stephen Curry did the impossible and it was as entertaining as hell. His mastery of complex moves ending in a step back three have proven baskbetball has transformed into a 3-point shooting contest. The rest of the league (except for the idiots running the Lakers and the Knicks) are moving to eliminate all mid range shots. After five consecutive Finals ruled by the three-point shot, I give up all notions of playing the game the old way.
2016: Even more proof of the absurd nature of modern basketball as a clearly inferior Cavs team overcomes a 3–1 deficit in the Finals because Lebron James (34.2% career 3-point shooter) and Kyrie Irving (38.3% career 3-point shooter) make 14 of 26 threes (53.8%) to tie the series 3–3, while two of the greatest high volume careeer 3-point shooters in history (Curry 43.8%, Thompson 41.9%) shoot 15 for 47 (31.9%) in games 6 and 7. Hey, if the Cubs can win the World Series after 108 years, anything is possible, right? As long as it doesn’t extend to how the country is governed… uh oh.
2017: Roll them dice, boys, roll them dice.