10 things to know about the NBA playoffs

3-pointers are not a cure-all anymore

Before we had the data to prove it insane, basketball coaches said good shots were one thing and 3-pointers were another. Then teams that shot more 3s started waxing everybody. John Hollinger pointed out more than a decade ago that if you looked at nothing other 3s attempted (not even made) you could go a long way to predicting how many games a team won. More 3s made your team better. It’s the innovation of the last few decades of basketball. In 1980, a typical NBA game featured four 3-pointers total--including end-of-quarter heaves. This season the two teams combine to take 68. The game is only 48 minutes long.

But the game never stops evolving. And this year, we are starting to see some wrinkles: the NBA’s best defensive team is the one that permits the MOST 3s (the Milwaukee Bucks). On BRING IT IN today David Thorpe shared his theory about how they make that work. 

And another important wrinkle. Mike D’Antoni, the high priest of the 3-ball, who invented the offense that upended the NBA, told me all he ever wanted to do was get more layups. No one believed him when all this began in Phoenix. But now? John Hollinger writes for the Athletic about D’Antoni’s current team, the Houston Rockets, who are widely seen as 3-crazy:

Houston’s 3-point shooting is basically a ruse at this point – a trick to tempt you away from guarding more valuable space at the rim. The Rockets only shot 34.5 percent on 3s this year, and McLemore was the only individual to make more than 36.3 percent. On the other hand, they shot 55.7 percent inside the arc – the second-best mark in the league, and with the best free-throw rate piled on top.

It took the league a long time to learn to value the 3 enough to shoot a lot of them. And now the league is off on a new journey, tinkering with what works in the new world. A lot of that will be surprising. Innovation is fun.

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