Josh Smith on pace for worst 3-point-shooting season in NBA history, but only because he’s playing smarter

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Josh Smith is on pace for the worst 3-point-shooting season in NBA history.

That was the case recently made by Sean Corp of Detroit Bad Boys and backed by Kyle Wagner of Deadspin.

There are varying potential cutoffs, but here’s how it stacks up: In NBA history, players have attempted at least 200 3-pointers in a season 1,626 times. Currently, Antoine Walker ranks last among them with a 25.6 3-point percentage in 1999-00. Smith – on pace to comfortably clear the bar with 303 3-point attempts – is shooting 23.9 percent from beyond the arc this season.

Undeniably, Smith is guilty of Corp’s and Wagner’s charge.

But it doesn’t matter.

Smith is playing smarter, and instead of mocking him for how that has affected his 3-point percentage, we should celebrate his wiser approach.

For years, the statistically inclined have shouted about the inefficiency of long 2-pointers relative to 3-pointers while at the same time, fairly, belittling players like Smith.

He got the message.

Smith is taking 44 percent of his shots from at least 16 feet, right in line with his recent career history.

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Here’s the real difference. Smith is taking 56 percent of those long shots from beyond the arc – by far a career high.

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Why does that matter? Because Smith, like most players, typically scores more points per 3-point attempt (blue) than long-2-point attempt (red).

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This season, as you can see, Smith has actually scored slightly more per 3-point attempt than long-2-point attempt, but that’s an aberration unlikely to continue. It’s happened just twice before in his career – his rookie year, when 3-pointers really weren’t in his repertoire (4-for-23 on the season) and 2010, when he famously “stopped” shooting 3s (0-for-7 on the season).

In a larger sample, it’s just extremely rare that a player scores more points per shot on long 2s than 3s. Of the 150 players who’ve taken at least 30 long 2s and 30 3s this season, 140 (93 percent) score more points per 3-pointer than long 2-pointer.*

*The exceptions: Smith, Andrea Bargnani,Ersan Ilyasova,Andrew Nicholson,J.J. Redick,Jeff Teague,Jared Sullinger,Tobias Harris,Amir Johnson andGreivis Vasquez

 

It’s just unlikely Smith bucks this trend over the entire season. Even if his 3-point percentage remains historically low, it will likely rise at least enough to make his 3s more efficient than his long 2s. He can get a little more comfortable with his new approach, shoot a little better from beyond the arc than he is now and still fall below Antoine Walker’s record.

But here’s the remarkable part: Even while on pace to set this record, Smith is producing about the same number of points per shot from at least 16 feet as he usually does:

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Smith’s 3-point percentage is a problem only insofar as there’s a column in the box score for 3-pointers and not for shots from at least 16 feet.

Look at that above graph again. The season Smith scored the fewest points per shot from beyond 16 feet, by far, was 2010 – the year he was celebrated for eliminating 3-pointers from his game. But he kept taking long 2s that year. It’s just that nobody noticed because they show up in the box score the same as dunks and layups.

Smith is producing from the perimeter just like he usually does. That’s far from a great standard, but on a Pistons team that features Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe on the interior, someone needs to try to space the floor. Smith is a better perimeter shooter than those two.

In an ideal world, Smith would never take jump shots, but that’s an unrealistic fantasy on any team – especially this Pistons team.

As long as Smith is taking jumpers, let’s credit him for increasingly taking the right ones – 3s, not long 2s – instead of just mocking his 3-point percentage.

Then, after that, we can all share a good laugh about his 3-point percentage this season being lower than Andray Blatche’s.

Isaiah Thomas scores 33, Celtics beat Bulls 104-95 to tie series

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CHICAGO (AP) Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points, and the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 104-95 on Sunday to tie their first-round playoff series at 2-all.

Boston blew a 20-point lead, but Thomas keyed a third-quarter run that put the Celtics back on top after Chicago briefly went ahead.

Gerald Green made four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points, helping the top-seeded Celtics return the favor in Chicago after dropping the first two games at home. Al Horford added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.

Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls with 33 points and nine assists. Nikola Mirotic and seldom-used Isaiah Canaan each scored 13 points, but Dwyane Wade finished with just 11.

Canaan made his first appearance since April 10, with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg searching for help at point guard with Rajon Rondo missing his second straight game because of a broken right thumb.

The Celtics led by 20 in the second quarter and were still up 10 in the third when Chicago scored 12 straight. The Bulls went ahead 65-63 on Robin Lopez‘s hook shot with 4:35 left in the quarter.

Thomas answered with back-to-back layups and scored 10 points in a 12-0 run that gave the Celtics a 75-65 lead, and they withstood a push by the Bulls early in the fourth.

With Thomas and Green each scoring 16 in the first half, the Celtics carried a 57-46 lead into the break.

Butler led the Bulls with 17 in the half. But the offense struggled in a big way with Rondo unavailable. Jerian Grant started and went to the bench after about five ineffective minutes. Michael Carter-Williams then picked up two quick fouls, forcing the Bulls to go with Canaan in the first quarter.

The Celtics, meanwhile, led 41-21 early in the second quarter. But things started to turn after Canaan stole the ball from Marcus Smart and scored on a layup.

Smart feigned throwing the ball at Butler. The two came nose to nose, resulting in technical fouls for both players, and the Bulls started to shoot their way back into it.

Mirotic hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight in the quarter. Bobby Portis cut it to 52-42 with his basket late in the half, and Butler hit two free throws with 22.6 seconds left to make it 57-46.

RONDO FINED

The NBA fined Rondo for attempting to trip Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder from the bench in Game 3. Crowder jawed at the Bulls’ bench after hitting a jumper and Rondo extended his leg as Crowder walked by.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Thomas was just 1 of 9 on 3-pointers but made 12 of 13 free throws.

Bulls: Butler made 19 of 23 foul shots after failing to get to the line in Game 3. … Canaan was inactive for the first three games.

LeBron James swats Thaddeus Young on yet another chasedown block (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is The King, but he’s also the king of chasedown blocks in the NBA. During Sunday’s Game 4 matchup with the Indiana Pacers, the Cleveland Cavaliers star dropped the hammer yet again on an unsuspecting opponent.

The victim this time was Pacers forward Thaddeus Young, who was out on a 2-on-2 break with LeBron trailing.

To be honest, Young should have known better than to try this.

Via Twitter:

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Robin Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Jae Crowder’s shoe (VIDEO)

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Why did Robin Lopez tie Jae Crowder‘s shoe during Sunday’s Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls? We may never know. Perhaps he was just helping the Celtics forward after he tossed him to the ground? Or maybe he’s just doing weird Robin Lopez things?

In any case, Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Crowder’s shoe after it came off during a battle down low early in the third quarter at United Center.

Here’s how it went down.

Via Twitter:

I still have no idea.

Noticeably frustrated, Russell Westbrook gets prickly with reporter after loss to Rockets (VIDEO)

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The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets played an ugly game down the stretch on Sunday. The Rockets employed a hack-a-Andre Roberson strategy, while the Thunder played sloppy and often poorly with Russell Westbrook out of the game.

The latter was the subject in question when Oklahoman reporter Berry Tramel spoke with Westbrook and Steven Adams at a postgame press conference following the Game 4 loss, 113-109.

Tramel’s question — whether the Rockets got a boost when Westbrook was off the floor — was directed at Adams, but the Thunder MVP candidate couldn’t let it go.

Snapping at Tramel, Westbrook told him not to split them up.

Via Twitter:

Tramel’s question is legitimate, and one of the overarching themes of this series thus far. Westbrook’s response is pretty far off the mark, but it did tell the story of how he’s feeling going away from Chesapeake Arena down 3-1.

Game 5 is on Tuesday in Houston.