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Utah Jazz shooting more 3-pointers, but still lag behind leaders

Published January 29, 2014 11:18 pm

Warriors, Rockets and Suns making a living off the three.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Trey Burke enjoys basketball history, likes kicking back from time to time and watching old footage, noting all the ways the game has changed. Few of those differences are more obvious than the 3-point line when taking in those black-and-white classics.

"Sometimes it isn't even there," the 21-year-old Jazz rookie says. "That's kind of funny to me because that's what I've been playing with my whole life."

The arc had already been on the court for six years before Ty Corbin made his NBA debut in 1985, some seven years before Burke was born. But all this time later, the Utah Jazz coach admits he's still adjusting to it in how he game plans on both ends of the floor.

"It's always been in my basketball knowledge or my basketball days that you stop penetration to the basket, you stop close shots more than worrying about 3-point shots," Corbin said. "Now you look at the numbers or analytics saying that some 3s are better than some layups. It goes against what basketball has always been about, but guys are making those shots."

They're making them — and taking more than ever.

In the 1999-2000 season, NBA teams took an average of 1,124 attempts from beyond the arc.

Last year, the average was 1,635. The league as a whole is on pace to take more than 3,000 additional triples this year.

The 3-pointer is part of the gospel in Houston, where the Rockets chuck more than any other club (26.4). The same is true in Phoenix, where Jeff Hornacek's Suns take more than 25 a night. And in Golden State, the Jazz's opponent Friday night, where Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are part of more than 24 attempts per game.

Of course, teams can still succeed without such a reliance on the outside shot. The San Antonio Spurs rank 18th in attempts, while the Thunder and Pacers rank 20th and 22nd respectively.

Meanwhile, three of the top 10 teams in attempts are currently out of playoff position.

But the trey has become increasingly more important.

"Back when I played, it wasn't as big a weapon as it is now. There were still a lot of old-school coaches that didn't really want the team focusing on shooting 3-point shots," said Denver coach Brian Shaw, whose Nuggets are in the top 10 in attempts per game. "You played a lot more inside out. We still want to play inside out … but I think a wide-open 3-point shot, whether it's from the corner or the top, when we penetrate and make the defense react and swing it to a teammate in rhythm, is just as good as a layup or a 15-footer."

The Jazz, too, are launching more treys than ever, averaging 18.6 per game. But that number still puts Utah in the bottom five when it comes to attempts.

The Jazz once put up more 3s than any other team, but that was 30 years ago during 1983-84 season. Utah has never ranked higher than 22nd in the league in attempts over the last 20 years.

A move toward the current trend has been slow. But after a dismal start to the season, 3-point shooting has been key in helping the Jazz climb out of last place in the West. Over the last 20 games, Utah is averaging 21 attempts (the 21st most in the NBA, up from 26) and is making 37.3 percent of them (top 10 in that span).

"You sit guys out there now and you tell them to stay," Corbin said.

Still, how to handle the triple has required a shift in strategy with which the coach hasn't always been comfortable.

"I don't like it from the standpoint that I really hate seeing a guy lay the ball up and [we're] not contesting it with a guy sitting on the corner 3-point shot," Corbin said. "From the time I've been playing basketball, when I was little, you always stopped the close-up shots first. Sometimes you have to [focus on the 3] because guys are so good at making that shot.

"It just makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up." —

Warriors at Jazz

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