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Shooting regression is coming for the Mavericks. Or is it?

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The Mavericks are getting fantastic looks

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

If you listen to Tyron Lue, Paul George or Skip Bayless you would believe that the Dallas Mavericks are an average to bad 3-point shooting team that has simply been lucky so far in the playoffs. To an extent that is true. No team is going to shoot 50 percent from three over a long sample size. That being said, the Mavericks are not due for as much regression as it might appear.

The Mavericks shot 36.2 percent from three for the regular season. This was 18th in the NBA. However of the 2,744 threes the Mavericks took during the regular season, 657 threes were taken by Josh Richardson, Dwight Powell, Trey Burke, Willie Cauley-Stein, James Johnson, Josh Green, Nicolo Melli, Wes Iwundu, Boban Marjanovic, Nate Hinton, Tyler Bey and Tyrell Terry. Those players combined to shoot just 29.8 percent on 23.9 percent of the Mavericks total threes. Those players have combined to go 2 for 6 from three in this series. The poor shooting of these players effected the overall season numbers, but they don’t matter for this series because they aren’t taking shots.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Kristaps Porzingis, Dorian Finney Smith and Maxi Kleber on the other hand combined to take 1301 threes during the regular season. These players combined to shoot 39.2 percent on these threes. And they have combined to shoot 23 for 39 during the first round series.

The remaining threes have been taken by Luka Doncic who is 10 for 24 from three during this series for 41.7 percent. Doncic was a 35 percent three point shooter this season. However, if you filter out his first 7 games where he was clearly out of shape and his last 2 where he was simply playing out the string, his percentage improves to 37.0 percent. Luka has gone on hot runs from three before. From February 23 through March 31 for example, Luka shot 44.5% on 9.8 three point attempts per game.

To determine how much regression we should expect, its important to look at the types of shots the Mavericks are getting. NBA.com breaks down the closest defender contesting a shot into 4 categories. Very tightly contested which means the nearest defender is 2 feet or less away from the shooter. Tightly contest which means the defender is between 2 and 4 feet. Open which means the defender is between 4 and 6 feet and wide open which means the nearest defender is a full 6 feet or more away from the shooter.

Even NBA players will miss some open jumpers but it is probably not a sound strategy to rely on that happening. Of the Mavericks 70 three point attempts during this series a whopping 27 of them (38.5 percent) have been classified as wide open. The Mavericks have hit 14 (55.5 percent) of those threes. Another 34 (48.6 percent) have been classified as open. The Mavericks have hit 15 (44.1 percent) of those.

That means 29 of the Mavericks made threes and 61 of their attempts have been without a defender with 4 feet. Further 21 of those threes have been made by the Hardaway, Porzingis, Finney-Smith, Kleber quartet that shot the lights out during the regular season as well. Not only that Finney-Smith, Kleber and Porzingis have combined for a grand total of 1 dribble prior to their 12 made threes. When quality shooters are left wide open and not even forced to dribble to get that open, they will make shots.

To sum this all up, the Mavericks have been lucky but they have also made their own luck by getting incredibly good looks for the right shooters. If the Clippers truly expect the Mavericks to regress, they need to attempt to make some of their own luck by preventing the Mavericks from getting such good looks or at least making lesser shooters take them.

Here’s the game 3 preview podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.