The NBA team that makes history with 3-pointers in the finals is not Golden State

The NBA team that makes history with 3-pointers in the finals is not Golden State

For most of the last decade, Golden State, led by Stephen Curry, has been at the forefront of 3 point revolution in the NBA

But in this NBA postseason, it is Golden State’s final opponent, Boston, which has made more 3-pointers than any team in playoff history. Celts establish the record when Jayson Tatum hit a 3-pointer in the second quarter of Game 5 on Monday, marking Boston’s 307th 3-pointer in the postseason.

Highest number of triples in the NBA in each postseason

It was fitting that the Celtics did this against Golden State, since they held the previous record (from their 2016 playoff run). In the same Game 5, the Celtics also made eight straight 3-pointers, the longest streak in an NBA Finals game. That broke a record they shared after they went seven in a row to start the fourth quarter in the series opener.

Entering Game 6 on Thursday, the Celtics have made 317 3-pointers in the playoffs compared to Golden State 289. But both teams are averaging 13.8 triples. (Boston has played two more postseason games.)

Somehow, Golden State can be credited, or blamed, if Boston wins this series, with the relentless barrage of jumpers the Celtics have thrown against the team.

Golden State has been given credit for changing basketball’s conventional wisdom about offense. Instead of working hard to get shots near the rim and using 3-pointers as a weapon of last resort, the offense would shift to elite perimeter shooting. Instead of slower big men clogging up the paint and running a methodical offense from the post, players like Curry and Klay Thompson ushered in a new era of the NBA, focused more on jump shots than layups.

But what’s particularly interesting about the Celtics is that they’ve changed their style since entering the postseason. During the regular season, Boston averaged 37.1 3-point attempts per game. During the playoffs, that number is actually up to 37.0.

Wait a minute, didn’t we just say this is a change from the regular season? This is where you have to look under the hood.

In the postseason, 3-pointers have accounted for 41 percent of Boston’s field goals. In the regular season, that figure was just 32 percent. That change, a nine percentage point change, is the largest of any NBA Finals team so far. (By contrast, Golden State hasn’t changed much: 37 percent in the postseason and 35 percent in the regular season.)

Highest playoff 3-point changes as a percentage of all field goals, among NBA finalists

Equipment season registration playoffs Change
Boston ’21-’22 32% 41%
miami ’13-’14 twenty-one% 26%
miami ’11-’12 fifteen% twenty%
dallas ’10-’11 twenty-one% 25%
golden state ’14-’15 26% 30%
cleveland ’14-’15 26% 30%
Los Angeles Lakers ’19-’20 26% 29%
Saint Anthony ’04-’05 17% twenty-one%
Los Angeles Lakers ’03-’04 12% fifteen%
Toronto ’18-’19 29% 32%
cleveland ’16-’17 33% 35%
golden state ’21-’22 35% 37%
Los Angeles Lakers ’08-’09 17% 19%
golden state ’15-’16 31% 33%
cleveland ’15-’16 31% 33%
miami ’05-’06 sixteen% 18%
golden state ’16-’17 28% 30%
New Jersey Nets ’02-’03 12% 14%
Saint Anthony ’06-’07 twenty% twenty-one%
Los Angeles Lakers ’09-’10 17% 18%
Detroit ’03-’04 12% 13%
Saint Anthony ’13-’14 twenty-one% 22%
Los Angeles Lakers ’01-’02 sixteen% 17%
golden state ’17-’18 26% 27%
Boston ’09-’10 sixteen% 17%
Detroit ’04-’05 13% 13%
Saint Anthony ’02-’03 fifteen% sixteen%
cleveland ’06-’07 17% 17%
miami ’10-’11 18% 18%

Font: Basketball Reference

This table shows the top 15 increases in 3-point shooting percentage for all NBA finalists since 2002. Figures are rounded.

Some of this is a personnel issue. For example, in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Celtics played the Milwaukee Bucks, who won the championship last season. The Bucks opened with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, two tall, mobile rim protectors who make it difficult for guards to get to the basket. This meant that Boston had to shoot more 3-pointers to compensate. In Game 1 of that series, the Celtics shot a whopping 50 3-pointers, well above their average. Games 2 and 6? 43 each. Overall, Boston averaged 41.7 3-point attempts per match against milwaukee. But against the Miami Heat, a team without the Bucks’ rim protection, the Celtics averaged 34 3-point attempts per game, below their regular season average.

Still, don’t sleep with Steph

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s not forget that Curry and Thompson are known as the splash brothers for a reason.

Cumulative 3-pointers in playoff games

They are a shooting tag team like no other. They each have more 3-pointers in the postseason than someone else in NBA history, even people who have played twice as many playoff games as them. And although Curry lost a record streak this week, when he failed to make a single 3-pointer in Game 5, he and Thompson still have more playoff 3-pointers between them of nine franchises.

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