If the headline hadn’t spoiled the surprise and someone asked you to guess who was leading the league in three-point shooting percentage through the first 16 games of the season, unless you were a hardcore Spurs fan, there’s no set of circumstances that would have led you to guess it was Marco Belinelli.
But among players with enough qualified makes, Belinelli is the man, currently atop the leaderboard shooting 55.5 percent (22-of-40) from beyond the arc to start the season.
The reason Belinelli’s name would be so far down most fans’ lists is because historically, he hasn’t shot from distance from anything resembling a high percentage. He’s a career 39.2 percent three-point shooter (which includes this year’s hot start), and last season in Chicago managed to hit just 35.7 percent of his long-range looks.
Part of the increased production is a decreased role in San Antonio, where Belinelli plays 20.8 minutes off the bench on a roster loaded with talent. But after watching all 22 of his makes this year, there’s a fairly decent number of those that were off-balance, highly-contested or both, and Belinelli still managed to knock them down with ease.
There were of course plenty of shots that were wide open, too, thanks to the fact that the defense had to concern themselves with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard or Tim Duncan, and the Spurs move the ball so well that Belinelli ended up being the recipient of a pass that found him in a perfect position to shoot on more than one occasion.
There are 110 players who have more three-point attempts on the season than Belinelli, and 49 players who have made more shots from distance. But to qualify to lead the league in the three-point shooting percentage statistical category, a player has to only have made one three-pointer per game as the season goes on; the minimum to qualify through 16 games is 16 made, and 82 makes in total are required to qualify at the end of the regular season.
While finishing the year at better than 50 percent from beyond the arc seems like a longshot, considering he’s likely to be at the low end of qualifying makes by season’s end, Belinelli may have a chance at this if he continues to perform when called upon in limited opportunities with the Spurs.
Reports: Bucks to extend Jason Kidd’s contract, hire Jazz’s Justin Zanik as assistant GM
The Bucks have a promising young core — led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, John Henson, and Kris Middleton — but one that took a step back this past season. Setbacks can mean changes in the power structure of an organization, and there are changes coming to Milwaukee.
The Bucks are moving toward a contract extension with Kidd as coach, league sources said.
There will be changes further up the ladder.
John Hammond, the GM who was the architect of the current roster, has just one year left on his current contract, and the Bucks are bringing in Utah’s Justin Zanik as a GM in waiting, according to Wojnarowski.
Zanik, an assistant general manager with Utah, will join the Bucks with a similar job title – and an agreement that he will eventually become the successor to Milwaukee GM John Hammond, sources said.
Zanik has constructed a strong reputation within the league as a front-office executive and previously a player agent. Milwaukee was aggressive in pursuing him to eventually lead the franchise’s basketball operations.
The key is can Zanik and Kidd work together — Kidd has consistently pushed for more power in personnel decisions.
Bucks owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry have been aggressive since buying the team, and you can expect Zanik will be under orders to get this team back to the playoffs and back on an upward trajectory. That may just take time as all their young talent comes together. Well, that and they have to figure out how to make Greg Monroe fit with everyone else.
Watch Klay Thompson’s record 11 playoff three pointers
“Klay Thompson was ridiculous. His shooting was some of the most incredible shooting you will ever see.”
That was how Warrior coach Steve Kerr described Thompson’s night — a playoff record 11 three pointers on his way to 41 points, sparking Golden State’s Game 6 win on the road. It wasn’t just the threes, it was the degree of difficulty on some of those shots — he was just in the zone. Not the Blake Griffin commercial zone, the real one.
Klay Thompson shoots Warriors to comeback win in Oklahoma City, forces Game 7
In the most intense game of these playoffs, Golden State came from eight down to start the fourth quarter behind the red-hot shooting of Klay Thompson — he set an NBA record with 11 threes in a playoff game and had 19 points in the fourth quarter — as the Warriors outscored the Thunder 16-4 in the final 4:40 of the game. Thompson had help with the defense of Andre Iguodala making plays on both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, getting key steals and making plays down the stretch.
The result was a 108-101 Golden State win in Oklahoma City to even the series at 3-3 and force a Game 7 Monday night at Oracle Arena.
Which is just good for fans of basketball because this series has been thrilling.
It didn’t feel thrilling to OKC, this was a punch to the gut for the Thunder, who had a 13 point lead in the first half at seemed in complete control early of a game that could have sent them to the NBA Finals. However, as the game got tight late the Thunder reverted to bad habits — everyone standing around watching Durant and Westbrook go one-on-one. The result was the two Thunder stars combined for 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting with six turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, four turnovers in the final two minutes. For the game, the Thunder shot 13 percent from three.
Meanwhile, the Warriors’ Thompson wasn’t just making threes, he was making high degree of difficulty threes on his way to 41 points on the night.
“Klay Thompson was ridiculous,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “His shooting was some of the most incredible shooting you will ever see. I think he set a record for threes (he did), but our defense was fantastic. We kept getting stops, but we couldn’t get the board, but we stayed with it.”
Stephen Curry, who had struggled again in the first half and still doesn’t look 100 percent except in flashes, had one of those flashes in the fourth quarter — six points which included a dagger driving layup and the steal that sealed the win. He finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists on the night.
Curry and Thompson combined for 61 of the Warriors last 81 points in the game.
That finish was the opposite of how everything started for Golden State.
The Warriors opened the game 8-of-28 from the field and shot just 36 percent overall, plus had 10 turnovers in the first half. It was the Thunder defense that seemed to be back to form and under that pressure the Warriors reverted to some sloppy play — for example, Curry trying to make a playground pass to a shooter in the corner when a floater or layup was available (Kevin Durant stole that pass). Curry once again seemed hesitant early on in this game. Also, Steve Kerr oddly sat Thompson, Curry and Draymond Green all at the same time in the first half and that fueled a quick OKC run — and their building was rocking.
But they couldn’t sustain it.
“That hasn’t been us the last month and a half,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of his team’s performance in the fourth. “I thought we got a little stagnant coming down the stretch, and then I thought us defensively, we were a little bit late.”
For much of the game the Thunder played well — Steven Adams was a beast again, Serge Ibaka made plays — but they couldn’t put the Warriors away in the first half. Part of that was Durant, who started just 2-of-10 from the field and was shooting to quickly too often. He was 10-of-31 shooting for the game.
It was Westbrook who had the Thunder up by as many as 13 in the first half. Then Warriors got a few stops, and the three ball (Curry and Thompson were 6-of-12 from deep in the first half) kept it close, it was just a five-point game at the break, 53-48.
Thompson drained a couple of threes to open the second half and with that the game was close through the third, however, Curry started to find his groove and scored 11 straight for the Warriors at one point. The Thunder made a push at the end of the quarter — with Anthony Morrow and Enes Kanter on the court — and led by eight heading into the fourth.
It wasn’t enough. There was the long Curry three over Adams to make it a one-point game with four minutes left. Westbrook hit a couple of free throws but on the next Thunder possession Durant called for a clear out that the Warriors doubled, got the steal, then got the Curry three in transition to tie it with 2:47 left.
In the end, it was too much of the shooting magic that got the Warriors 73 wins. And they got the Game 7 they needed.
“I don’t think there can be any more pressure on us in Game 7 than there was tonight,” Kerr said.
Steven Adams gets his revenge, dunks all over Draymond Green (VIDEO)