Nearly 30 games into the 2015-16 season, the Brooklyn Nets are finally starting to address one of their biggest deficiencies.
Don’t get me wrong, they won’t escape the bottom tier of the Eastern Conference. This is a slow-footed squad that continues to struggle to defend anyone. However, in recent games they’ve found more favorable looks from three-point range.
Despite their overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, the Nets have been taking and making more triples lately.
Prior to this past week, Brooklyn was averaging 4.9 long balls per 48 minutes, an anemic number in today’s era. For much of the season, Lionel Hollins’s crew has looked way behind the times and regularly getting smoked by the competition in the three-point department.
During their last four games, the Nets have buried a much-healthier 7.3 triples per 48 minutes. They’ve been aggressive, attempting at least 16 threes per game. At the very least, it’s helped them compete in some higher-scoring affairs even when the defense is rearing its ugly head.
Brooklyn’s robust 8-of-16 performance against the Indiana Pacers on Friday was followed up by a couple of cold-shooting outings against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls. But the key is that the Nets continued to looked for the three-ball, attempting 20-plus in those games.
Their persistence was rewarded Wednesday with a 10-of-19 outing against the Mavs. Five different players connected from beyond the arc, including a 5-of-5 night from Bojan Bogdanovic. It was a far cry from the cold-shooting club we’ve seen for most of the season:
The Nets have hit 10 3-pointers tonight. Wut
— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) December 24, 2015
Note that the Nets went 6-of-8 on corner threes, an area where they’ve struggled immensely otherwise this year. Prior to this week, corner tosses had accounted for just over five percent of the team’s offense, something that needed to be rectified.
The increased usage and confidence of Bogdanovic and Wayne Ellington — two wings who started the season ice cold — has been a major factor in Brooklyn’s three-point upswing.
Bogdanovic is now shooting 42 percent from long range in December, including 52 percent in his last five games. He’s being more assertive calling for the ball, and his comrades are also doing a better job of finding him.
During the overtime thriller against Dallas, Bogey found several opportunities on the weak side in transition. While the Nets don’t exactly run blistering fast breaks, they’ve at least executed some secondary breaks to find early offense. Here they quickly took advantage of the Mavs’ weak rotation:
Bogdanovic also got a nice in-rhythm bucket when Thaddeus Young hit him after a steal:
It’s important to note that although Bogdanovic went 5-of-5 against Dallas and scored 17, he was still under-utilized. Despite the sizzling second and third quarters, Hollins managed to keep him on the bench for nearly the entire fourth quarter. That can’t happen again. Benny Nadeau of The Brooklyn Game explained the significance of Bogey’s aggressiveness:
(He) fired away with the confidence we’ve expected all season. With Joe Johnson wilting a little bit more every game, getting this version of Bogdanovic more often would be key…Just one question: how did the Nets not get him more looks in the second half?
Meanwhile, Ellington has enjoyed a mini-resurgence of late as well. He didn’t go crazy Wednesday like Bogey did, but he’s 6-of-13 (46 percent) on triples over his last four games off the bench. It’s an encouraging sign after he shot 25 percent from distance in November and started December just as shakily.
Ellington’s a career 38 percent three-point shooter and one of the Nets’ most talented perimeter threats; he was bound to snap out of his early-season funk. Hollins has run more plays for him as of late, including this one coming out of a timeout against the Bulls. Ellington used a baseline screen to shake free of Jimmy Butler and pop up for the jumper:
We’re not asking Brooklyn to become the Golden State Warriors or Atlanta Hawks, but it must keep sprinkling in more three-oriented sets. They force the opposing defense to work, space the floor and balance the offense for Brook Lopez and Young. A stronger three-point barrage is the one potentially positive effect of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s absence, so it’s something the team must embrace.
Now that the Nets have found some semblance of a perimeter attack, there’s no excuse for reverting back to the days of three or four triples on 10 or 11 attempts. For the love of aesthetically pleasing basketball and higher-scoring games, let’s hope they build off this recent tide of threes.