NEW YORK, NY. — If good things come in threes, it shouldn’t surprise you that the Nets are 5-14.
The cross-borough New York Knicks took down the Brooklyn Nets Friday night 108-91, laying to rest any talk of a regional rivalry after only 12 minutes. The Knicks made seven of nine three-pointers to close the game-deciding first quarter and jumped out to a 42-21 lead, mostly on open shots.
On the other side of the loss was the Nets, who made just three of 11 three-point attempts on the night, four fewer than New York in the game-deciding quarter, two fewer than Carmelo Anthony (5-8), and the same amount as Knicks rookie phenom Kristaps Porzingis (3-4).
“They did a good job of executing,” Lionel Hollins said after the loss. “They ran the offense very well, set good screens, and made a lot of threes.”
The three-point shot has become increasingly valuable in the NBA. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com wrote a lengthy, rich piece detailing how the three turned from a quirky gimmick in 1979 into the league’s most powerful weapon.
But in Brooklyn, three-point avoidance is a trend, not a blip. The Nets rank last among all 30 NBA teams in three-pointers made (4.6 per game), attempted (15.6), and three-point percentage (29.7%), as well as points per possession on spot-up shots (0.77), per NBA.com. It is a team-wide issue: other than point guards Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin, every Nets player is shooting below 30 percent from deep.
18.1 percent of the Nets’ shot attempts are three-pointers, which is the exact rate of the average NBA team… in 2002. Their 29.7% marksmanship is slightly below the average NBA team in 1987 (30.2%), when teams took fewer than five three-pointers per game.
The Nets skew traditional, but this borders on colonial. This isn’t zigging while the world zags. This is caulking your wagon to ford the river while everyone else drives their hybrid car over the bridge.
The team as a whole has been more effective inside than out. They’ve build around Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, two players who do most of their work in the paint and in the mid-range area.
“If we can make shots, I don’t care where they’re from,” Hollins said. “I don’t have a problem with shooting threes. We don’t get them, and we don’t make them when we get them. So yes, I would like for us to shoot more threes, if we can get to shoot threes. We haven’t gotten a lot of clean looks at threes, and when we have, we haven’t made a lot.”
“We just don’t shoot them in abundance,” Jarrett Jack told The Brooklyn Game about the team’s outside shooting. “We’re a team that plays inside out. Not a lot of threes are gonna be shot when you do that, unless teams are double-teaming and if they are, we’ve got to do a good job making the appropriate pass, and then find the open guy, and try to knock some shots down.”
The Nets are prone to a lack of ball movement. Only 53.4 percent of Nets shots come off an assist, which ranks seventh-worst in the league, and Hollins’s simplified offense is prone to isolations, post-ups, and quick pull-up jumpers. That’s limited the chances for them to get clean shots, according to Joe Johnson.
“You’ve got to move the ball and make plays for the next guy,” Johnson told The Brooklyn Game. “If you don’t do that, you don’t get wide open shots. That’s the idea. … It’s just how we’ve been playing.”
Worse for the Nets, next up comes the generation’s preeminent three-point shooter. The undefeated Golden State Warriors travel to Brooklyn Sunday, led by reigning NBA MVP and shooting savant Stephen Curry. Curry has 102 three-pointers on the season, which is 14 more than the entire Nets team combined.
The Nets combined have not had more three-pointers than Curry alone at a single point this season, striking within one from games 14 to 16:
Note: this chart live-updates throughout the season.
The Nets nearly beat these Warriors in their last matchup, coming a Brook Lopez tip-in away from stealing the victory. Curry hit only 5 of 16 three-point attempts that night. The bad news for the Nets? Curry missed all six of his threes classified as “wide open,” according to NBA.com. There’s a good chance that won’t happen again.