What scares the rest of the NBA about playing the Golden State Warriors is their ability turn games on their head in what seems like mere seconds with the three-ball. We’ve never seen a pairing like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. This year these two guys put up 19.4 threes a game during the regular season between them and hit on over 40 percent, they’re scary great shooters. However, it’s possible the Magic, 76ers and Bucks have helped to prepare the Raptors for the coming onslaught defensively and just maybe it’s Toronto who’s the hotter three-point shooting team heading into the NBA Finals.
Regular Season Stats
Warriors 34.4 3FGA, 38.5% (3rd best)
- Stephen Curry 11.7 3FGA, 43.7%
- Klay Thompson 7.7 3FGA, 40.2%
- Kevin Durant 5.0 3FGA, 35.3% (questionable for the series)
First Round opponent: Magic 32.1 3FGA, 35.6%
- DJ Augustin 3.8 3FGA, 42.1%
- Terrence Ross 7.0 3FGA, 38.3%
- Nikola Vucevic 2.9 3FGA, 36.4%
Second Round opponent: 76ers 30.2 3FGA, 35.9%
- JJ Redick 8.0 3FGA, 39.7%
- Mike Scott 4.4 3FGA, 41.2%
- Tobias Harris 4.8 3FGA, 39.7% (76ers & Clippers)
Conference Final opponent: Bucks 38.2 3FGA (2nd most), 35.3%
- Malcolm Brogdon 3.8 3FGA, 42.6%
- Kris Middleton 6.2 3FGA, 37.8%
- Brook Lopez 6.3 3FGA, 36.5%
So what happened to the Raptors as they played their way thru to the NBA Finals?
Raptors (4-1) vs Magic
In game one against Orlando, the Magic hit 48.3 percent of their threes and Augustin hit 4-5 to score 25 points. As Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said, “It took one punch in the gut from the Orlando Magic to understand we’d better start playing a lot harder,” and the Raptors held the Magic to 26.2 percent from three over the next four games. The hot shooting Augustin went 2-8 from three over the next three games
Raptors (4-3) vs 76ers
In their toughest test of the postseason to-date, the Raptors held Philly to 32.9 percent from three over the seven games and only once did the 76ers shoot better than their regular season average from deep. Harris, who shot 50 percent from three in the first round, only hit on 27.9 percent of his 6.1 three-point attempts against Toronto and Scott was a non-factor, although Redick did what he always does.
Raptors (4-2) vs Bucks
The Bucks fired up the second most threes in the regular season making the second most and only Houston shot and made more threes per game in the postseason thru the Conference Finals. Thru the first two rounds of the postseason the Bucks were shooting and making threes right at their regular season averages, then they ran into Toronto. Versus the Raptors, they were still putting up more than 38 three-point attempts per game, but they were only hitting on 31 percent of them. Lopez only managed to get off more than four three-point attempts twice in the series after averaging over six all season. All-Star Kris Middleton saw his numbers plummet from 6.7 three-point attempts at 46.7 percent thru the first two rounds to 37.5 percent on 5.3 attempts.
The Raptors turned the tables on the Bucks, outscoring them by an average of 7.5 points from three.
Thru the first three rounds, Toronto has held their opponents to a stingy 31.3 percent shooting from three. The Warriors, on the other hand, have surrendered a lofty 36.5 percent to three-point shooting.
What may be getting overlooked in all the deserved hype about the Warriors vaunted three-point shooting is just how close this stat has been for both Golden State and Toronto during this postseason. While the Warriors made the third most threes during the regular season (13.3) and have made the third most threes in the playoffs (12), since the regular season ended, the Raptors have made the fourth most threes at a statistically insignificant difference (11.9).
In the Conference Finals, Toronto shot 14.3-38.3 or 37.4 percent from three against Milwaukee. While the Warriors, sans Durant, only went 11.5-31.8 or 36.2 percent from three as they cruised past Portland with Curry literally taking 48 percent and making 56.5 percent (6.5-15.3) of his teams three-point attempts.
Maybe the change in the Raptors fortunes from three shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. The 76ers head coach Brett Brown certainly was expecting it as he kept saying Toronto has been the NBA’s best three-point shooting team since they traded for Marc Gasol. He’s not wrong. The Raptors finished off the final 23 games of the regular season hitting a league third best 14.5 threes a game at a league best 41.5 percent. Post All-Star break the Warriors hit 14.2 threes at 38.7 percent.
It’s hard to believe Toronto is going let Curry fire off better than 15 threes a game in the NBA Finals and it’s going to be incumbent on the Warriors to not let Toronto fire off more threes per game than they do or their better shooters are going to be offset by sheer volume. Plus Durant’s health could play a bigger part in the outcome of this series than most analysts are considering.
This NBA Finals has potential to be full of surprises.
photo credit Larry Millson