MIAMI (AP) — Another year. Another record. The NBA’s 3-point craze is not slowing down.
Sometime this weekend, almost certainly during one of the nine games on Friday night’s schedule, someone will connect from beyond the arc and take the NBA to yet another long-distance level.
For the sixth consecutive season, NBA teams will combine to set a leaguewide 3-point record. There have already been 23,635 3-pointers made this season, and the league is more than 8 percent ahead of the pace established last year, when the total across the NBA was 23,748.
So clearly, the reliance on the 3-pointer is not going to lessen anytime soon.
“I think it’s a trend for a while — but at some point it has to peak,” said Cleveland forward Kevin Love, one of the many NBA big men who has no trouble making 3s, and that’s a big reason why the totals are soaring. “Every position, 1 through 5, is now shooting 3s. You see that as such a weapon. It makes the game fun, makes it interesting. There’s definitely a lot of spacing out there and it’s wild to see.”
Thing is, that peak isn’t visible.
Out of 30 teams, 19 are either on pace to set — or have already set — franchise records for made 3s this season, and a couple others are within reasonable striking distance.
There are shooters now all over the league. Only four seasons ago, the total of NBA players who made at least 100 3s was 57. This year, that total is going to be close to doubled. Across the NBA this season, 91 percent of players have attempted at least one 3-pointer and 81 percent of players have made at least one.
Rookies are making them; Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has 172 and is closing in on the record for a first-year player, that being 185 by Portland’s Damian Lillard. Also making them are 7-footers; eight guys listed at 7-0 or better will likely get to the 100 mark by the end of the season.
And the league as a whole is actually getting better at them. Accuracy from 3-point range has gone up about 1.5 percent over the last three seasons, definitely one of the reasons why scoring per game is higher than it’s been at any point in nearly 30 years.
“We all like to get out there, shoot a lot of 3s, spread the floor and try to move the ball as much as you can,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Everybody is more or less the same … with the same outline. Just get it done in different ways.”
The first season where the NBA combined to make 15,000 3-pointers was 2009-10, and that seems like ages ago. The 20,000 plateau was broken just two seasons ago, and barring something very unusual this season’s total will top 25,000.
Love knew the 3-point pace was higher than ever. But he didn’t think the record would be set this early, and that the previous mark would be obliterated.
“Wow. Wow. Wow,” Love said, upon hearing the numbers.
Wow is right.
The single-team mark is also about to fall, and then get left in the dust for good measure. Houston, which is quite obviously flourishing in D’Antoni’s free-flowing system and has the league’s best overall record, needs only 19 3s to set a season record and break the mark that the Rockets established … you guessed it, last season.
The Rockets average 15.5 3s per game, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the team record also falls on Friday. It was only two years ago that Golden State became the first team to make 1,000 3s in a season — and the Rockets are on pace to get near 1,300 this season.
“It’s safe to say a Mike D’Antoni team will be the first team that averages 50 3s in a game,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We can laugh at that now. But it will happen, and his team will probably be the first to do it. His first team that allegedly changed the game only averaged 23 3s a game, that 2004-05 Suns team. And look where they are now, basically doubling that up almost.”
He’s exaggerating for effect, but only slightly.
That team in Phoenix averaged just under 25 3-point attempts per game. This season’s Rockets are averaging nearly 43, and have gotten 50 or more attempts from deep up 12 times this season.
It works for them: Houston is 11-1 in those games. It’s a statistically irrelevant sample size with which to draw a comparison, but the other teams to take at least 50 3s in a game this season — Brooklyn twice, Boston once — are 0-3.
“I’m sure there’s a ceiling,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. “I just don’t know what it is.”
Neither does anyone else.
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(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer & AP Photo/Kathy Willens & AP Photo/Ronald Cortes)