If I asked you right now who is the best 3 point shooter in the Laker starting lineup, who would you go with? Take your time…..ok ready? Who’d you go with?
Kobe? Derek Fisher? Wrong and wrong. So who does that leave? Would you believe it if I told you Ron Artest? You’re going to have to. Crazy right?
Not just for this series, either. Artest was the Lakers best starter from beyond the arc not just in this series (31 percent), but during the regular season as well (35 percent), second on the team behind Jordan Farmar out of rotation players in LA.
So why am I tell you this? Simply to amplify the point of just how poor of 3 point shooting team the Lakers are. Artest is known for being a guy offensively who shoots you out of games much more often than shooting you into them.
So when he is your best player from downtown out of everyone in the starting five, you know you have a major weakness. That flaw is something the Celtics will have to capitalize on more in order to win this series, something they haven’t enough of through these first three games of the NBA Finals. Let’s break down the Lakers 3 point shooting in further depth.
Regular Season: 34.1% (24th in NBA)
Postseason before Finals: 34.8% (9th out of 16 playoff teams)
So the Lakers were terrible through the regular season, and they improved slightly during their primarily run and gun offensive series with the Jazz and Suns. Both of those teams are in the bottom half of the NBA in defending the 3, so no surprise there.
Based on that, I had expected a dropoff in LA’s shooting numbers in the Finals in facing a much peskier and disciplined Celtic defense who had held their sharpshooting opponents to just 32 percent shooting from deep all postseason. I didn’t expect this kind of drop though. In 3 games thus far, the Lakers are shooting just 23.4% from downtown (11/47).
That’s an extremely low number, especially for a team that has a 2-1 series lead and will almost undoubtedly improve, but not by much in all likelihood. The bigger question for me though is how exactly have the Lakers overcome this poor shooting to win two games, one decidedly in these Finals? Let’s look at the game by game breakdown of 3 point attempts:
Game 1: 4/10
Game 2: 5/22
Game 3: 2/15
The thing that stands out to me most in looking at those numbers, is not the number of makes, but the three point shot attempts.
During the regular season, the Lakers averaged 19 3 point attempts per game. That number for LA jumped to 21.9/game during the first three rounds of this postseason.
It’s no coincidence that the two games the Lakers have won in this series, are the games that they have shot the least numbers of threes, far below their regular and postseason averages in attempts.
With LA having such a big advantage inside, they have shot very well all series long from inside the arc, hitting 50.5% of their 2 pointers. It was that mid-range and inside shooting that allowed them to steal game 3 in Boston, when nothing was working from the outside.
It’s hard to be mad at your team if you’re Doc Rivers, looking at those defensive numbers. Clearly, they are doing a tremendous job of contesting those deep LA jumpers. If there is one thing though, I’m emphasizing to my guys tonight, it’s that we want the Lakers taking as many 3’s as possible.
The Celtics need to force them to their weakness and LA has a clear one shooting from the outside. For Boston to win these next two games, they need to make LA to force shots from the perimeter. So watch those 3 point attempt numbers tonight. If they stay low, LA is playing their game. If you see them crawling into the high teens and 20’s, you have to like Boston’s chances.
So let’s keep Ron Artest happy and give him every opportunity to chuck them up tonight.