The Extra Pass: Where Do Great Offenses Get Their Shots?

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The Extra Pass is a new daily column that’s designed to give you a better look at a theme, team, player or scheme. Today, we narrow in on where great offenses are getting their shots.

On the surface, the best offenses in the league don’t seem to have much in common other than star power. Take the Nets and the Rockets, for example. They’re ranked 8th and 9th in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions), and yet they couldn’t be more different. The Nets play at the league’s slowest pace, the Rockets play at the league’s fastest pace. The Nets are great in isolation and bad in the pick-and-roll, the Rockets are great in the pick-and-roll and bad in isolation. The two teams are like night and day, but they both get the job done. How?

Because the Rockets, Nets, and and the other top offenses in the league share a common trait, and it has nothing to do with pace. It’s all about location, location, location.

The Corner 3

The 3-pointer from the corner is one of the most efficient shots in basketball, and there’s a reason for that. First, it’s the shortest 3-pointer you can take, but more importantly, almost all shots coming from the corner are on catch-and-shoot opportunities as opposed to dribble pull-ups. The NBA average for corner 3-pointers is 38.5 percent — an impressive number when you consider the league shoots 34.8 percent on all other 3-point attempts. That’s a substantial bump.

Quantity matters

There’s a pretty strong correlation between teams that attempt lots of corner 3-pointers and overall offensive efficiency. The top eight teams in corner 3-point attempts (Rockets, Spurs, Heat, Nets, Clippers, Nuggets, Lakers, Knicks) are all top ten offenses in efficiency this season. The stats show that the best offenses in the league manufacture lots of spot-up opportunities in the corner.

There’s a pretty good team missing from that list

Did you catch that Oklahoma City wasn’t on the list? If you did, good eye. Oklahoma City has the most efficient offense in the league, but they’re just 22nd in attempts from the corner. What’s the deal?

It has a lot to do with the fact that their best players, the guys who use almost all of the possessions, rarely spend anytime behind the arc in the corner. Kevin Durant has taken only 13 attempts from the corner this season. Russell Westbrook has only taken 12. That being said, when the Thunder do shoot a corner 3, it’s almost always wide-open, and it’s usually going in. The Thunder shoot 45.7 percent on corner 3-pointers this season, by far the best percentage in the league.

Quality matters as well

Now that the top offense is accounted for, what about the tenth? Similar to Oklahoma City, the Golden State Warriors only shoot the 20th most attempts from the corner, but they’re right behind Miami for second in overall percentage at 43.8 percent.

You can safely say that for the league’s ten best offenses so far this season, the corner 3 is a big part of what they do. A lot of that can be attributed to defenses compensating for stars like Durant, Carmelo Anthony and others, but for a team like Houston or San Antonio, it’s a focused effort to create those shots and to find players who excel at hitting them. Danny Green is one of the best corner 3-point shooters in the league, and he was out of the league for a bit before the Spurs snatched him up.

Who are the best corner 3 guys in the NBA?

I almost guarantee you’ll do a double take here, but the leader in made 3-pointers from the corner this season is…Metta World Peace! He’s shooting 46 for 100 from that area this season, and he’s quietly been a rock for the disastrous Lakers, whose offensive issues aren’t really the problem.

Another interesting name that actually leads the league in corner attempts is Nuggets forward Corey Brewer. His shooting has been badly needed, mainly because Andre Iguodala has clanked his way to a 15-for-67 (22 percent) performance from the corner this year.

The usual suspects are on the leader board as well. Steve Novak is shooting a whopping 52.3 percent on 65 attempts. Ray Allen, perhaps the greatest corner shooter of all-time, is shooting 52.4 percent on 63 attempts. With Shane Battier also knocking in the third most makes in the league at a solid 46 percent clip, Miami almost always has a deadly spot-up corner shooter on the floor for LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to kick it out to.

And that’s kind of the point. The league’s greatest offenses will always be driven by star players, but they’ll be fueled by the corner 3.

Stats from NBA.com were used in this article.

Warriors eliminate Spurs, advance to face Pelicans

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Kevin Durant drained a pull-up 3-pointer reminiscent of his signature NBA Finals shot in the final minute of the third quarter. The Spurs ended the quarter with a flurry and kept coming.

Durant made consecutive mid-range jumpers over Kyle Anderson midway through the fourth quarter. The Spurs called timeout, subbed  Rudy Gay for Anderson and kept coming.

Durant drove past Gay and dunked. The Spurs called another timeout and kept coming.

Each of those Durant shots seemed as if they could be the backbreaker. Credit San Antonio for continuing to play hard.

But without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs were just overmatched against the superstar small forward in the Warriors’ 4-1 first-round victory – which ended with Golden State’s 99-91 Game 5 win Tuesday.

The Warriors’ next opponent – the Pelicans, who open their second-round series Saturday – could soon learn the feeling.

New Orleans relies on E'Twaun Moore, Darius Miller and Solomon Hill at small forward – not the slate of stoppers that seems ready for Durant. Even on an off night (1-for-8 on 3-pointers, five turnovers), Durant scored 25 in Game 5. He’s a tough cover. But those three Pelicans – Moore (size), Miller (fundamentals) and Hill (speed) – each have major defensive liabilities Durant can exploit.

And Durant will have plenty of help.

Klay Thompson (24 points) appears headed back on track after a clunker in Game 4. Draymond Green (17 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists) looks locked in.

And, of course, Stephen Curry is poised to return sometime against the Pelicans.

The Warriors weren’t very impressive in the San Antonio series. Nor did they need to be. The Spurs were just overmatched, unable to summon nearly enough offense.

But Golden State showed enough focus and reminders of its talent to retain favored status even against better opponents – like New Orleans, which swept the Trail Blazers. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday lead a surging team.

The Spurs want to get back on that level, and that stars with solving the Leonard dilemma this summer.

Will they offer him a super-max extension? Would he take it? Will they trade him? Will he request a trade?

With questions like that facing San Antonio, by comparison, the Pelicans are stable at small forward.

How do you like “The Process” now? Sixers eliminate Heat, advance to second round

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It felt inevitable.

Not “The Process” from the start. There were some severe downs before the ups.

Not this first playoff series against Miami from the start, because it felt even… until Game 3 when Joel Embiid returned in his mask and tipped the scales.

No, it was Game 5’s result felt inevitable as it unfolded. Not because Philadelphia won the previous game in Miami and could close it out at home. Not because the Sixers have the two biggest talents in the series in Ben Simmons and Embiid.

Rather, Game 5 felt inevitable because the Sixers got better looks all night long. They got them with ball movement, with player movement that created mismatches or clean jumpers. It was tied 46-46 at the half because Philadelphia just missing its good looks while the Heat were struggling with hands in their face all night. Philadelphia shot 38.1 percent in the first half overall and were 2-of-12 from three.

In the third quarter, it all changed.

Philadelphia went on an early 9-0 run, shot 50 percent as a team for the quarter, all while continuing to play defense and get stops. The Sixers won the third 34-20 and held on through Miami rallies in the fourth to take the game comfortably, 104-91.

With the win, Philadelphia wins the series 4-1 and advances to the second round, where they will face either Boston or Milwaukee (Boston leads the series 3-2).

They did it behind 27 from J.J. Redick, who knocked down five threes. Embiid had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Simmons had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. However, it was the defense that held the Miami to 38.6 percent shooting overall and 16-of-31 from three within eight feet of the basket that won the game for Philly.

This young Sixers team learned lessons in this first round, and maybe the biggest was how to adapt the physicality of the playoffs, and keeping your cool while things don’t go your way.

“I thought we withstood the physicality of the Heat,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “They’re a great organization. They came to mean it, we knew they wouldn’t go away easily, and we had to have that physical element to match.”

They matched that physicality, but what they had was talent that could step up.

They also savored the moment. Midway through the fourth, up comfortably and still knocking down shots, the young Sixers were reveling in the deafening crowd in the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia was reveling in success after years of struggling through the process — the players and fans wanted to start that party midway through the fourth.

However, Heat have no chill and no quit in them, they went on a 10-0 in the fourth quarter, not-so-coincidentally after Sixers fans started chanting, “We want Boston!”

But when it mattered the Heat couldn’t get stops — the Sixers talent showed through. Redick hit threes. Embiid owned the paint. Simmons did a little bit of everything.

It was a moment of revelry in Philadelphia. One years in the making — and maybe the first in many years of future celebrations on that court.

Sixers players douse Brett Brown, present him with bell after closing Heat (VIDEO)

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The Philadelphia 76ers are moving on. Let’s just try to process that for a moment.

After beating the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, 104-91, this iteration of the Sixers experienced their first playoff series win together. It was also the first series win for coach Brett Brown as the man in charge of an NBA team.

As such, players gathered in the locker room after the win to hear Brown speak about the win, and about how the team had more to give and to learn as they moved forward together in the playoffs.

When Brown concluded his speech, he tried to hand off the victory bell to JJ Redick. As soon as Redick received it, he bestowed the honor of the bell right back upon Brown.

That’s when teammates showered Brown with whatever they had nearby, and Brown rung the bell.

Man, what a moment.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

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Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.