MILWAUKEE – Brook Lopez caught a pass from Giannis Antetokounmpo and launched a 28-foot three-pointer.
The shot-clock wasn’t about to expire. The game wasn't on the line. The long-range attempt was a normal shot for Lopez, who can step out to 28 feet – and beyond – and shoot threes with accuracy.
“There are lots of players capable of shooting from that distance. Others aren’t,” Lopez told USA TODAY before Milwaukee's Game 1 win over Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday. “You have to judge it on a player-to-player basis.”
The long-distance three has become standard in NBA games. It’s not a blip on the radar anymore as players look for another edge.
Magic Johnson speaks out: Says he felt betrayed by GM Rob Pelinka
'Royal family of NBA': Steph and Seth Curry have made Warriors-Blazers special
The three-point arc is 23 feet, nine inches above the break and 22 feet in the corners. Since the 2014-15 season, the number of three-pointers attempted between 28-40 feet has tripled, according to shot data on basketball-reference.com.
Accuracy has increased over that time, too. In 2014-15, players attempted 1,308 threes from 28-40 feet and made 308 for a 23.6 percent rate. This season, players attempted 4,177 threes in that range and made 1,302 for a 31.2 percent clip.
Today’s offense is predicated on spreading the floor to create drives to the basket and open three-point shots.
Stepping deeper beyond the three-point arc generates more space and puts even more pressure on already stressed defenses.
It’s not just Golden State’s Steph Curry and Portland’s Damian Lillard pulling up from two steps over halfcourt and shooting threes while still on the logo.
“It's a really interesting part of the game right now," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "Now, this next evolution that you're seeing, you're seeing Steph shooting bombs, you're seeing (Houston's) Eric Gordon 8-feet behind the line.
"You're seeing all kinds of people saying, 'OK, if you're going to be able to get to me on the line and contest the shot, maybe if I'm 6 or 8 feet behind it, I'll have a clean look, a cleaner look, and you've got a longer run to contest.' "
Lopez exemplifies this trend. Not only has the 7-footer added the three-point shot to his game, his range adds another dimension. Earlier this season, he fired a 34-foot three.
"If we're open, we want to let it fly,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Milwaukee's Brook Lopez and Toronto's Kyle Lowry are among the growing number of NBA players who are taking their three-point shooting to another level. (Photo: Frank Gunn, AP)
'Place where they can hurt you'
Milwaukee is one of the best teams in the league in driving to the bucket (because they have Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe), and they have the long-distance shooters (Lopez and Nikola Mirotic) to make those shots.
“We've got guys that can shoot it from distance, significant distance behind the line, and I think more and more guys are adding that to their player development and work,” Budenholzer said. “Any time we're open from three, it's a good shot in our mind.”
Milwaukee had the Boston Celtics scrambling in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“We’re not just dealing with those guys in a HORSE game walking down the floor or spotting up,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We’re also dealing with the guy in the middle of the floor with the ball who generates all this need for help. The appropriate amount of help is the big challenge against these guys. When you’re not big on Giannis, then he can get downhill and he gets downhill and scores or gets fouled often.”
The Raptors have their own long-distance threat in Kyle Lowry, who has added deep threes to his game. This season, Lowry made 40.3 percent on 62 three-point attempts 28 feet or longer.
Curry shot 39.9 percent on 153 three-point attempts 28 feet or longer; Atlanta rookie Trae Young made 37.1 percent; Gordon 39.6 percent; Lillard 35.8 percent; and Lopez 37.3 percent.
“Those (are) areas where in the past people wouldn’t dream of (shooting from),” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “It is a place where they can hurt you. The players can hit from there and they believe they can do it consistently.”
'It's not a bad shot'
Some teams have a “four-point line” taped on their practice courts. The Bucks have two 1½ feet x 1½ feet squares taped at the 28-foot hash mark on the sideline where players get a visual of how to space the floor and where they can get comfortable shooting deep threes.
Lowry saw how the game was evolving.
“The game told me,” Lowry told USA TODAY. “When I work out, I call it a four-point shot. When you’re a scoring point guard, defenders are not going to let you get to the three-point line. You have to take the further shots. I’ll be honest with you. I watched a lot of Dame, a lot of Steph, and even go back to Gilbert Arenas.
“You can’t close out on those shots. It’s in the mind to say, ‘Ok, this guy’s at 30 feet. Should I contest this?’ ”
When Lillard pulled up from 37 feet for a Game 5, series-clinching buzzer-beater against Oklahoma City in the first round, Thunder forward Paul George called it a bad shot.
But that shot is in Lillard’s repertoire. He took 123 threes from 28 feet or deeper this season and 141 in 2017-18.
“It’s not a bad shot,” Lowry said. “It’s a different shot.”
And one that keeps growing in prominence.
Contributing: Martin Rogers
Source: Read Full Article