Defense dominated the headlines in the Indiana Pacers‘ Game 3 victory over the New York Knicks in their Eastern conference semifinal series, and rightfully so. New York’s potent offense was anything but on Saturday night. They shot just 35 percent from the floor, managed only 71 points and were ultimately beat up by the physical play of the Pacers.
Not only did Roy Hibbert‘s disciplined back-line defense help wreck the Knicks’ offense, he also had his way on the other end. The 7-foot-2 center grabbed 12 boards (eight offensive) and put in 24 points. He certainly was the team’s key performer in a crucial game for both sides.
Despite the win, the Pacers’ offense could muster only 82 points themselves. As the old saying goes, “a win is a win,” but I’m pretty confident that head coach Frank Vogel isn’t too fond of that 82-point mark. Moving forward, they will almost certainly need more than that, especially considering just how lethal the Knicks can be on offense.
The common thing for most is to point to all the turnovers (17) when attempting to figure out what went wrong. Sure, 17 giveaways is far too many, but Indiana has been coughing the ball up at a high rate all season long and still produced an above-average offense.
Next, the 33 3-point attempts that the Pacers hoisted up led to tweets from local writers suggesting this was a bad sign for Indiana. That’s not “their style” and they need to “get the ball inside.” While I would agree with the style aspect — the Pacers want to use their size advantage on the block — that many threes can be a good thing for an offense that averaged just 20 per in the regular season.
Taking a closer look, 24 out of the 33 shots from long range that the Pacers took in Game 3 were either wide-open looks or featured a late or weak close-out from a Knicks defender. Last time I checked, those types of 3-point shots are every team’s style and a goal of every offense in basketball.
It’s not as if poor 3-point shooters were jacking up contested looks for the Pacers either. Out of the five players who attempted a three on Saturday for the Pacers, none of them were sub-30 percent from that range. The worst mark came from Sam Young (30 percent), but he attempted just one in Game 3. Also, George Hill and Paul George, career 36 and 37 percent 3-point shooters, respectively, took 24 of the 33 Indiana attempts.
Threes have also become much more popular over time in the NBA. A lot of that is due to the simple fact that the 3-point shot is obviously worth one more point than shots inside the arc. But threes are also trending up because teams are becoming smarter.
A recent study of where rebounds go in the NBA shows that missed 3-pointers are more likely to be rebounded by the offensive team more than mid-range jumpers. This idea tends to agree with the Pacers’ performance in Game 3, as Indiana rebounded close to 32 percent of their missed threes. That’s seven offensive rebounds to be exact, close to half of the 18 the Pacers pulled in.
It’s not as if the Pacers were ignoring the likes of Hibbert or David West down low, too. 13 of Indiana’s looks from three came from passes out of the post, either directly or after being swung around the perimeter. It’s a strategy that can buffer New York’s aggressive, scrambling defense that features multiple double-teams of post players.
I’m sure the Pacers would like to hit more than 30 percent of their 3-pointers moving forward, especially considering the amount of open looks they received in Game 3. Any kind of success from the outside can be crucial for a team that lacks elite individual scorers.
Ultimately, it’s not about the amount of threes a team like the Pacers attempt, it’s about how they get those looks. Quality is key, no matter the quantity.
Brandon Curry is an NBA writer for Rant Sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter @ByBrandonCurry