Blazers and the 3pt Shot: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I've mentioned before that the Blazers are really just the next incarnation of the D'Antoni Phoenix Suns.

Having said that, I've seen the light, and believe the Blazers are a mixture of those Suns, and this year' Houston Rockets team (how many three pointers have they shot?).

I not only still agree with my assessment that the Blazers need to continue shooting the 3 pt shot when it's not falling, I believe we should be taking more 3 pt shots.

Recently, there has been a fair amount of discussion happening both locally and nationally about the Blazers 3 pt shooting and 3pt defending.

Dave mentioned this tonight in his game recap of the TWolves:

The Blazers are not getting out to defend the three-point arc.

At the beginning of the year you could count on a huge advantage for the Blazers in volume and percentage from beyond the arc. As the year has progressed the margin has narrowed. As with offensive rebounding, some of this is systemic. The Blazers are making a more concerted effort to collapse, to keep opponents from scoring 60 in the paint, than they were earlier in the year when it seemed they just didn't care unless those opposing points came three at a time. But the rotations out of the paint and across the court are coming slowly, if at all. The Blazers are an average three-point defensive team right now, heading downward. You're seeing more opponents get wide-open looks from distance. That's a bad trend.

Three weeks ago, Zach Lowe wrote about the 3 point shot in the NBA:

All that sprinting and 3-point gunning has produced 115 points per 100 possessions, best in the D-League and a number that would blow away the entire NBA. "If we could take a 3 every time down the court," Smith says, "we probably would. There’s going to be a game where we shoot 60... The league does not want NBA basketball to look like a pickup game, and it is concerned that games with, say, 70 combined 3-point attempts would take on the feel of a ragged, me-first open gym game...Coaches and analytics experts agree that NBA teams are not close to reaching the optimum upper limit on 3-point attempts, with the success of the Vipers perhaps serving as evidence. In strict mathematical terms, not even Houston is taking enough 3pts... All of which raises the question: Are we nearing the point at which the 3-point shot will become too dominant a part of basketball? Is all the long-range chucking good for the game?

Sidebar: The Blazers score 112.4 points per 100 possessions, and were at one point earlier in the season 113.5 points per 100 possessions for the season, Not all that far from 115 points per 100 possessions. The Blazers average more than 1 point more per 100 possessions than the next best team.

And of course, this great piece by Dane Carbough discussing how opponents are taking away the 3pt line from the Blazers:

The Portland Trail Blazers have entered a tough stretch in the month of January as teams have started to lock down on them from three-point range... Opponents have been doing two things to stop the Blazers attack from three. First, they are selling out on contesting at the arc. The Blazers have been quick to pull the trigger for most of the year, and their shooters have a green light. However, defenders have been rushing toward Portland shooters without much regard for a secondary offensive move, like a step back or a pump fake, and it’s led to a lot of contested misses... The Blazers will have to find a way to open up the arc as teams continue to look to lock them down as we head towards the All-Star break. Penetration, flare screens and backdoor plays should help do that as they look to find their touch again from long range.

But, what does all this mean?


These articles prodded me to investigate the Blazers relationship with the 3pt shot, on both sides of the ball.

Just looking at the ten games prior to tonight' game:

Blazers 3PM Blazers 3PA Opponent 3PM Opponent 3PA
Indy 7 20 5 13
Knicks 8 21 4 21
Wizards 5 19 7 17
Raptors 8 18 6 20
Grizzlies 4 24 6 13
Warriors 6 21 10 25
TWolves 4 16 9 22
Nuggets 4 18 10 23
Thunder 7 19 10 15
Rockets 8 25 16 33

61 201 83 202


Yes, you are reading that correctly.


In the past 10 games, the Blazers are shooting 30.3% from deep(equivalent to shooting 45.4% on 2 point shots) and how poorly the Blazers have been defending the 3 pt line. They've basically taken as many 3pt shots as their opponents have over these past 10 games, but have 22 less made 3pts (66 points, or an extra 6.6 points per game during this ten game stretch).

Lets take a closer look at the Three Blazer Bombers, who have struggled shooting the 3pt shot (past 11 games).

Lillard 3PM Lillard 3PA Wes 3PM Wes 3PA Batum 3PM Batum 3PA
TWolves 1 4 3 5 0 4
Pacers 4 7 2 8 0 3
Knicks 1 6 3 6 2 5
Wizards 2 7 1 6 2 5
Raptors 1 4 5 7 1 4
Grizzlies 2 9 2 6 0 4
Warriors 2 7 2 6 0 1
TWolves 1 4 1 5 0 3
Nuggets 0 3 2 6 0 4
Thunder 0 5 4 8 1 2
Rockets 3 8 2 9 1 3

17 64 27 72 7 38


The Blazers have won just 5 of these 11 games (w/ 3pt win over the Raptors, a 4pt win over the Knicks, and a 5pt win over the Nuggets). Not exactly an impressive showing lately... .

Batum came out of the gate so strong, hitting a 3pt shot in each and every one of the Blazers first 33 games, but has struggled mightily since, having a made 3pt shot in just 9 of the past 17 games.

Batum has had zero 3pt makes in 5 of the last 7 games.

Wes' 37.5% is actually not bad (though it is when compared to his career numbers). Not surprisingly, the Blazers have lost both games where Wes doesn't hit a 3 pt shot.

Lillard' struggles are the most puzzling. Prior to this 11 game rough stretch, Lillard was 60 of 124 from the 3pt line in the proceeding 14 games (48.0% from downtown).

The competition might have increased, but to go from averaging basically making one in every two, as he did for 14 games, to then average making one in every 4 from distance over the following 11 games seems a bit suspicious...


Interesting Trends

Lillard has a 3pt percentage of 41.7% at home and 39.8% on the road. Looking at his shot chart, you notice that he almost never takes corner 3 pt shots, preferring to shot from the middle 3 locations in the 3pt contest.



In addition, his number of 3 pt attempts increases as the game progresses (ie. first quarter the least, second quarter the next least etc). Is this an indication of fatigue/being worried about his struggles around the rim?

Lillard is 64 of 144 from distance, or 44.4% from the 3pt line in the first half (equivalent to 66.6% shooting from 2 point range. The second half is completely different story, making 74 of his 203 attempts from 3 pt range, or 36.5% (equivalent to 54.8% shooting from 2 point range).

Lillard is 3 of 4 from 3pt range in overtime (and 8 of 10 on all field goals).

Lillard is shooting over 40% from the 3 pt line every weekday, and significantly worse on weekends. In those 4 earlier Sunday games, Lillard is shooting 27.8% and shooting 36.8% during the 12 Saturday games. Any ideas on why he'd stuggle on the weekends, or should we just assume it's a feature of the sample size?

Unlike Lillard, Wes doesn't have a 'home court advantage' as he hits 41.7% at home and 41.3% on the road.

Unsurprisingly,, when the Blazers win he's shooting 46.8% from deep and when the Blazers lose he's shooting 30.0% from beyond the 3pt line.

Batum shoots the 3pt shot like he has rust in his body: shooting 38.1% with no rest, 35.7% with a single days rest, 28.0% with two days rest, and 23.5% with three or more days off. Again, any ideas?

Friday night games are statistically the best for our Three Blazer' Bombers (7 games):

* Wes - 24 of 41 from 3pt range
* Lillard - 22 of 42 from 3pt range
* Batum -- 19 of 39 from 3pt range

The three of them have shot 65 of 122 from distance during those 7 Friday night games (53.3%)... Crazy good.


Lillard is on pace to smash the franchise record in made 3 pointers, which he set in his rookie season.

Fun thought: this list could be filled with Lillard' name in every spot in a decade...

1) Damian Lillard - 185 (2012-13)
2) Damon Stoudamire - 181 (2004-05)
3) Clifford Robinson - 178 (1995-96)
4) Wes Matthews - 169 (2012-13)
5) Nic Batum - 165 (2012-13)
6) Rudy Fernandez - 159 (2008-09)
7) Damon Stoudamire - 156 (2003-04)
8) Wes Matthews - 154 (2010-11)
9) Damian Lillard - 145* (2013-14)
10) Terry Porter - 143 (1992-93)

Lillard is on pace to hit 233 three pointers this season (145 made in 51 games).

Wes is on pace to hit 211 three pointers this season (131 made in 51 games).

Unbelievable... they are probably odds on favorites to be the new 1 and 2 spots in made 3pts in Blazer franchise history. Do they have a shot at setting the NBA record?

The NBA' record in made 3 pointers:

1) Steph Curry - 272 (2012-13)
2) Ray Allen - 269 (2005-06)
3) Dennis Scott - 267 (1995-96)
4) George McCloud - 257 (1995-96)
5) Jason Richardson - 243 (2007-08)
6) Peja Stojakovic - 240 (2003-04)
7) Mookie Blaylock - 231 (1995-96)
8) Peja Stojakovic - 231(2007-08)
9) Reggie Miller - 229 (1996-07)
10) Ray Allen - 229 (2001-02)

Probably not this year... but...

Can Lillard crack the top 10 in NBA history during his sophomore year?


I love the fact that there are only 4 players with at least 125 made 3 pointers, and they only play for two teams:

1) Steph Curry - 161
2) Klay Thompson - 149
3) Damian Lillard - 145
4) Wes Matthews - 134



My dream scenario is the Blazers play the Warriors in the second round this year....


The Blazers have 2 more games till the All-star break: OKC Thunder and @LA Clippers.

Opponents of the LA Clippers have shot 32.8% from the 3pt line (the best 3pt defense this season).

Lillard is 2 of 5 from 3pt range vs the LA Clippers this season.
Wes is 4 of 10 from 3pt range vs the LA Clippers this season.
Batum is 2 of 6 from 3pt range vs thee LA Clippers this season.

The Blazers shot 13 of 36 from 3pt range in their only match-up this season.

And opponents of the OKC Thunder have shot 34.1% from the 3pt line (good for 5th best 3pt defense this season).

Lillard is just 6 of 22 from 3pt range vs the Thunder this season.
Wes is just 7 of 21 from 3pt range vs the Thunder this season.
Batum is just 4 of 14 from 3pt range vs the Thunder this season.

Dec. 4th match-up vs the Thunder, the Blazers shot 8 of 23 (34.8%).
Dec. 31st match-up vs the Thunder, the Blazers shot 8 of 33 (24.2%)
Jan. 21st match-up vs the Thunder, the Blazers shot 7 of 19 (36.8%)

In total, the Blazers have shot 23 of 75 from 3pt range (30.7%) vs the Thunder this season.

It's going to be a challenge, but I think it's crucial that the Blazers have at least one good game from the 3pt line before the all-star break. Don't really want to go into the break on a rough 13 game patch...


Go Blazers!

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