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Utah Jazz really are this dangerous from deep

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Don’t live in a post-facts society. The Jazz are doing what the Jazz do. And that’s hurt you from the outside.

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight we’ll see the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers tip off for Game 5 in their first round NBA Playoffs series. They are tied 2-2, and it seems like forever since the unbridled enthusiasm we all had for the series before it started. All of our coverage can be found over here, but there were a few ups and downs for sure. Among the many previews we wrote, we didn’t get to write about the three point shooting. I felt like that, along with fouls, would be the main issues in this series. So far I think it’s fair to say that - beyond unforeseen injuries - have been the big deals.

Some of the Clippers fans that I read online are surprised and even appalled by the three point making of the Jazz. This is even more pronounced because their guys are missing. Is this the case? Is this just because fans are unfamiliar with our offense? Or are the Jazz just shooting better than they should?

Let’s figure it out, shall we?

First of all, the Jazz are 42/100 from downtown in the post season (42%), which is tied for first with the Milwaukee Bucks (47/112) for 3PT%. But Utah is only 9th out of 16 in 3PTM and 11th in 3PTA. Is this dangerous? Is this out of character?

For the regular season the Jazz went 791/2127 from outside, with NBA ranks of 13th in makes and 17th in attempts. Their percentage, 37.2%, was 9th best in the league. Passing the ball, finding the open man, making the extra pass, and shooting open threes . . . this is what the Jazz do. Period. A lot of people didn’t see it because they didn’t watch the team. And it doesn’t look explosive at all because the team plays so slowly.

When you compare it to the offensive talented Los Angeles Clippers you have a team that went 841/2244 from downtown (ranks 9th and 11th respectively), while shooting 37.5%, which is 7th. LA shoots more, plays at a faster pace, and has name brand shooters like J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. They also have a more diverse offensive attack with bigs like Blake Griffin and Marreese Speights knocking down threes with regularity.

In the playoffs the Clippers aren’t killing it. They are 13 out of 16 in 3PTM, 16 out of 16 in 3PTA, and 10 out of 16 in 3PT%. Again, this makes it seem unreasonable that the Jazz are making their shots — because it’s some kind of wizard spell or something called “defense” that the Jazz are playing - and the Clippers aren’t.

So is Utah shooting better than they should? The data tells me no. This is the Jazz. This is just the Jazz taking what the Clippers are giving them. (LA has decided to eliminate Gordon Hayward from midrange and Rudy Gobert lobs . . . guess what that leaves open . . . I’ll give you three guesses in fact.)


Regular Season:

Let’s look over the season shooting stats. This is the baseline or frame of reference that we’ll judge the playoff shooting stats against.

Point Guards:

Basketball-Reference.com, AllThatAmar

Okay, so the main guys here are Chris Paul and George Hill. And they shoot very similarly. Both take about 5 threes a game, both take a three for 38% of all of their total field goals attempts. And both Are shooting above 40%.

The rest of Utah’s crew don’t take a lot of threes, do not attempt a lot as a percentage of what they do take, and don’t make a high rate. Felton is in this boat as well. Austin Rivers, however, is not. He takes 4 threes a game, and takes a three 40% of the time he shoots it. He’s also shooting 37% from downtown. (As opposed to, for example, Dante Exum who shoots a three 40% of the time, but only shoots 2 threes a game and makes only 29% of them.)

The norm here is for things to be pretty even for the starters on both clubs, but the Clippers bench ball handlers to be more effective from outside.

Shooting Guards / Small Forwards:

Basketball-Reference.com, AllThatAmar

I am putting Luc Mbah a Moute and Joe Johnson here as wings though, you could argue for them to be ‘bigmen’ and I wouldn’t fight it. But they stay here for now. As for the data, oh man. So many of the Clippers wings are bombing from outside. Not as a reflection of taking a lot of threes per game, but as a proportion of the shots they do take. As a unit, their wings shoot 13.5 times a game (rounding up) in this aggregate form (sum of averages vs. actual average), while making .3786 of their attempts, and their attempts from outside are .4439 of all their FGA. That’s not too different than the Jazz group here that’s shooting 15.5 times a game (rounding down), making .3998 of their attempts, but being more moderate -- shooting only .4109 of their shots from outside.

The starters for both clubs tell a tale. J.J. Redick is excellent from deep (43%) and takes over 50% of his shots from there, six deep ones a night. Luc is hitting as well, 39%, but that’s not a big part of his game. For the Jazz you see Joe Ingles dropping 44% of his deep shots, and Gordon Hayward at 39.83%. The difference between Hayward and Mbah a Moute is that Hayward takes 5 threes a game, and Luc only 1.5 (rounding up).

This can be a force multiplier when you look at the wing bench guys. Wesley Johnson, Alan Anderson, and Paul Pierce took a lot of their shots from deep, but they weren’t making a lot of them. Jamal Crawford did take about 4 threes a game, but his 36% isn’t considered high anymore in this era. The only Jazz wing who shot worse from deep this year was Alec Burks - and he’s not even in the playoff rotation.

Utah’s wings shot better (%) and more (3PTA/G) from deep. If you leave them open - which was the Xs and Os plan for Doc Rivers, you were playing with *puts on sunglasses* Fire.

Power Forwards / Centers:

Basketball-Reference.com, AllThatAmar

This is the check and balance to that. The Jazz were not three point winners from deep with their bigs. The Clippers were, with their entire crew shooting about 5 times a game, making 36% of them (about the same percentage as Jamal Crawford, for example). But taking about one more three per game than Crawford did. In another way - the Clippers bigs added another Jamal Crawford on the floor to space it and take advantage of the open space.

Utah has nothing like that, even with the efforts of Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles.

Regular Season Main Take-Aways:

Point guards about even, but edge to LAC because of Austin Rivers. Jazz wings way more dominant for both accuracy and volume. Clippers bigs add a legit dimension to their three point attack, one that is not challenged at all by the Jazz bigs.


Playoffs:

Now, duh, we look at the playoff shooting stats from downtown.

Point Guards:

Basketball-Reference.com, AllThatAmar

Okay, so the easy part is: no Austin Rivers. The Jazz bench PGs made their shots, going 3/5, which pumps up their individual average, but again, only 5 3PTA in four games. Raymond Felton going 50% while shooting more threes all by himself neutralizes this. So in a way, even without Rivers the Clippers bench wins the bench battle.

The Clippers point guard did not win the starters battle so far. Paul went from making over 40% of his threes to making under 37%. Not the end of the world, as he’s still taking about 5 threes a game. But it’s just a much smaller part of his offensive gameplan. He’s shooting 53% from the field so maybe this doesn’t matter. But it’s hard not to see Hill go from 41% from deep to 47%. He’s also shooting less from outside than normal, and shooting a smaller piece of the pie than normal from deep. But on first blush what was a Clippers advantage now looks like even ground. Or even a Jazz advantage because the numbers (6 threes a night, at 50% accuracy, while shooting 35%) are almost all in their favor.

Shooting Guards / Small Forwards:

Basketball-Reference.com, AllThatAmar

This is really where the wheels fall off for the Clippers. The regular season 13.5 3PTA/G is down to 12.0 (rounding up both times). The pace is slower. There are no open transition threes being taken anymore. The % of threes taken from all FGA has also dropped from 44% to 42%. That’s not the end of the world. What seems to be the end of the world was a wing corp that made 37.86% of their threes now making just 25.53%.

But if the Clippers missing threes does not equate to “the Jazz are making way more than they should.” That’s a false equivalence.

Utah’s wings are shooting about 2 more threes a game in the playoffs (again, LAC has decided to take away midrange and lobs), the frequency of threes has gone down from 41% to 40%, even if they are shooting more threes a game (17.75 is more than 15.77 after all). But the shooting has MAINTAINED. Utah shot 39.98% from deep from their wing players in the regular season. In the playoffs these same guys are shooting a combined 40.85%.

Again, Utah making their threes while LA does not is evidence of Utah making their threes. And these are the threes they take and make during the season. And at this rate. And at this level of success.

Power Forwards / Centers:

Basketball-Reference.com, AllThatAmar

The opposite is the one-way three point barrage from the Clippers bigs. They are better than Jamal Crawford here -- shooting 5 threes a game (instead of 4) and making 43% of them (instead of 36%). They’ve been stellar, while the Jazz really didn’t get anything good. If you want to argue about “shooting better than they should” it’s LAC, not UTA.


Change:

I guess a recap of what I already wrote?

Point Guards:

  • George Hill shooting great, Chris Paul shooting okay
  • Raymond Felton out do-ing the Jazz bench PGs all by himself
  • Austin Rivers hasn’t played yet
  • Somehow this makes it seems like Utah is doing better than they should

Shooting Guards / Small Forwards:

  • Utah is maintaining their stuff
  • LA is not
  • Somehow this is our fault

Power Forwards / Centers:

  • Clippers bigs are inside/outside threats
  • Boris Diaw can’t do it alone, and his 29% shooting isn’t a good option, even if he should have gotten continuation on that call.
Los Angeles Clippers v Utah Jazz - Game Three Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Don’t fall for the fake news. The Jazz are a legit three point threat. The Clippers shot a lot more and made more in the regular season because they played a faster pace, and shot more open threes in transition. Utah has controlled the pace of play (and the glass) and this has been eliminated from their on-court performance.

LA has decided to leave Utah shooters open in order to better take away the ‘easier’ shots in the halfcourt setting. Utah’s shooters are shooting as well as they normally do, just shooting more because they are taking what the defense gives them.

Beat LA. Aim for their inflated heads.

#TakeNote