After the barrage of three point shots the Cleveland Cavaliers made in their Eastern Conference semi-finals sweep of the Atlanta Hawks, people have been asking if Tyronn Lue’s squad has decided that it is better to live and die with the outside shot.
Certainly, the game has changed greatly since the advent of the three point line in the late 70’s when the NBA took it from the ABA.
At the beginning it was used more as a means to catch up in a game, to give you a chance to tie a game up when you were losing by three late in a contest.
Now, pretty much every team in that plays the sport embraces the long distance shot.
We saw the change coming in the late 80’s/early 90’s at the high school and AAU levels, when we saw players pulling up for threes off of fast break opportunities. Until then, you were taught to get the easy basket, to get the ball as close as possible to score.
When you think back in Cavaliers’ history, the “Miracle of Richfield” teams were based on the perimeter scoring of guys like Campy Russell, Bingo Smith, Dick Snyder, and Austin Carr.
They may not have been shooting from a three point line distance, but their ability to make jump shots consistently was a key to their success.
So, have the current Cavs developed into a team that lives and dies by the three? We would say no.
One of the biggest reasons for all of the open threes converting by Cleveland in the Atlanta series was that the Hawks were determined not to get beat in the paint. They blitzed Kyrie Irving to force the ball out of his hands so he couldn’t drive, and there was certainly a huge amount of traffic when LeBron James tried to get the ball to the basket.
On the other hand, Lue’s crew shot 138 threes in the four game sweep of the Pistons, compared to the 152 they hoisted against the Hawks. Those numbers are pretty comparable.
In the Warriors first round series vs. Houston, they attempted 144 shots from behind the arc, an average of almost 29 per game. The Cavaliers averaged 34.5 per contest in their four game sweep.
Golden State is averaging 31 threes per game in the second round series against Portland, compared to Cleveland’s 38.5 in the whitewashing of Atlanta.
That would seem to make the wine and gold being more of a long distance shooting team than the squad who seemingly invented the style, the defending champions.
It would probably surprise you to know the Warriors only had two players who averaged more than four three point shots per game: Stephen Curry (a whopping 11.2/game) and Klay Thompson.
The Cavaliers have four players who shoot from behind the line more that four times a game on average: JR Smith (6.6), Kevin Love (5.7), Kyrie Irving (4.9), and Channing Frye (4.4). James is close at 3.7 per game during the regular season.
The Cavs are following the “analytics” that show a three point shot is more efficient than a long two point attempt.
So, the answer is yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers are most definitely a team relying on the three point shot.
Our fear is that when the long distance shot isn’t falling, which hasn’t happened in the playoffs yet, they will forget to attack the hoop.
Of course, if you have four or five players who shoot it from out there regularly, what are the chance all of them will be cold.
That’s what Tyronn Lue and the Cavs are banking on.