When evaluating the areas in which the Nets must excel to upset the 76ers, none are bigger than three-point shooting. Head coach Jacque Vaughn acknowledged the importance of Brooklyn’s efficiency from beyond the arc ahead of the first-round matchup:
“It’s been a part of our message as a group,” Vaughn said. “I think overall we made it no secret we want to shoot threes – the more the better. We’re learning the quality of them, what that looks like for our group, how quick we can shoot them.”
“So I do think that is something we’ll look at in the series and see if we can make shots. Like you said, when we make shots we’re an entirely different team. So we’re looking to make some shots.”
After trading away Durant and Irving, two of the most efficient mid-range scorers in NBA history, the Nets found themselves stocked with three-point shooters.
They added Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie to a roster that already included Joe Harris, Royce O’Neale and Seth Curry.
Since the trades, Brooklyn has gone from 13th in threes attempted per game (33.8) to sixth (38.1). During that span, the Nets are 7-0 when they’ve made 15 or more threes compared to 6-15 when they did not.
Harris, the Nets’ longest-tenured player and top shooter, has regained his rhythm after struggling early this season. The veteran has shot 48.2 percent (80-of-166) from deep over his last 38 games, the league’s best mark during that time among 80 players to attempt 155 or more.
Joe Harris dropped SIX THREES in the first quarter pic.twitter.com/r1uP26n3Ct
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 5, 2023
And against a Philadelphia team that ranks 25th in transition defense, Harris said the Nets’ ability to get stops and spring the fastbreak will unlock their three-point potential:
“It’ll certainly be a key,” the 31-year-old said of his team’s shooting. “I think the biggest thing will be our ability to get out in transition. A lot of times those transition attempts do turn into good three-point looks. So they’re kinda definitely correlated.”
With Dinwiddie, Bridges and Johnson in the starting lineup as shot creators, Finney-Smith has frequently found himself open from three, something that could continue as a product of Philadelphia’s game-planning. His ability to knock down those looks has been a barometer of Brooklyn’s success.
The Nets are 6-3 when Finney-Smith has hit multiple threes in a game compared to 5-12 when he hasn’t. After struggling following the trade, the 29-year-old has found his stride at the right time, shooting 24-0f-64 from deep (37.5 percent) over his last 14 games.
Dinwiddie said Finney-Smith letting it fly is a key component of the Nets’ offense:
“We tell him this all the time: he’s a guy that has to shoot with confidence,” Dinwiddie said Thursday. “We know he can shoot. He’s shown that over his career. When he shoots with confidence and doesn’t get a little timid with his shot selection we’re a much better team, because then how do you guard us?”
“You got typically at all times, three guys shooting over 40 percent from three out there with a lob threat. And then another couple people that can drive. So it’s just a dimension of our offense that is always needed and we just need him to be him. Like don’t be anybody else but yourself. Play with that confidence.”
Finney-Smith said that messaging from Dinwiddie has been relentless:
“Spence been on me, man. Every time I’m passing the ball he’s yelling shoot it,” he said. “It feels good though when you got guys like that who trust you, who want you to shoot it. I just gotta go out there and play free.”
I counted 15-straight threes during this battle between Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale Wednesday.
That pair’s shooting will be key for Brooklyn during this series. pic.twitter.com/TmuY26FhJ8
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) April 14, 2023
Brooklyn’s three-point-heavy approach will clash with a Sixers team that has forced opponents into the NBA’s fifth-worst three-point percentage (34.8) this season. The Nets’ ability to break that trend will determine whether they have a chance to pull off a stunning upset.
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