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Danny

Three Ball, Corner Pocket

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(Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon)

Perfection in basketball is hard to come by. With one team working against whatever you’re doing, there are all kinds of variables in the way. As we see every night, in every game across the NBA, perfect processes lead to imperfect results and imperfect processes lead to perfect results. Think back to the open shots the HEAT generated in a loss at Washington. Wide open threes, created by good offense, which just didn’t fall. Stuff happens.

Against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday afternoon, the HEAT had their sixth best offensive performance of the season. Not everything was perfect, but late in the third quarter, it happened. A perfect process led to a perfect result.

With just under three minutes to go, the HEAT lead the Lakers 97-90 and have possession of the ball. Dwyane Wade brings the ball up the floor and the HEAT position themselves in a basic “Horns” look, with Chris Bosh and LeBron James occupying the elbows and Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers in the corners. Battier runs baseline to the opposite corner while Chalmers uses screens from Bosh and James to fill Battier’s spot. Bosh has flared out and is just beyond the three-point line. The stage is set.

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Next, Wade and James run a simple high pick-and-roll. Simple in design, but difficult to defend because who’s involved. The HEAT draw the switch and Wade hits James crashing down the lane. As three Lakers converge, James spins and whips a pass to Bosh, who’s positioned on the right elbow, his sweet spot. Coming into the game, he’s hitting that shot 53.5 percent of the time, which translates to 1.07 points per shot. If Bosh takes the shot, an open one, he’s making a high value decision. But there’s a better option out there and he knows it.

Battier is positioned in the right corner. Going into that possession, Battier was 28-for-57 from that spot, good for 1.47 points per shot. Coaches like to say that the ball finds energy. On the HEAT, the ball often finds efficiency. Bosh knows who is in the corner and knows it’s a higher value shot. He makes the pass; Battier makes the shot. The HEAT lead stretches to 10 and the game is over for all intents and purposes.

The HEAT didn’t come down the floor with the intention of getting a corner three attempt. It just so happens that as attention shifts inward, those on the outside sometimes get neglected.

In 2013, NBA teams are shooting corner threes at a higher rate than any season going back to the 2001 season (that’s as far back as NBA.com shot location data goes). Corner threes account for 6.68 percent of all field goal attempts. It was 4.22 percent in 2001. The HEAT followed this trend to the extreme.

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(Click the image to enlarge. Click here for an interactive version of the chart.)

So far this season, 11.06 percent of HEAT field goal attempts have been corner threes. That’s the second highest percentage since 2001, trailing only the 2008 Orlando Magic (11.19 percent). Below, this percentage is plotted against corner three field goal percentage. The 2013 HEAT are on the far right.

130213_cornerthreescatter.jpg

(Click the image to enlarge. Click here for an interactive version of the chart.)

Shane Battier is one of eight NBA players to take at least 100 corner threes this season, making 47.5 percent of his attempts. When asked what produced so many looks from the corners, his answer was almost shockingly simple. The HEAT just put players there.

“It’s very rare that we don’t have someone in both corners. Whether it’s myself or Chris or Rashard or when we play small with LeBron and LeBron is in the corner. So we always have both corners filled,” Battier said. “I think that’s unique in the NBA. A lot of teams have one of the corners filled, usually with the other block filled, but we try to keep an open block and fill both corners.”

Watch any HEAT game and you’ll see exactly what Battier explained unfold. When you see James and Bosh running a pick-and-roll, the floor is spaced. When it’s Wade and Haslem, the floor is spaced. And as we saw against the Lakers, when it’s Wade and Bosh, the floor is spaced. Shooters are fanned to the high value spots beyond the arc.

Not every corner three the HEAT attempt comes from a high pick-and-roll. For instance, last postseason James was able to operate from the high post and deliver cross-court passes to open shooters. But the pick-and-roll action is the HEAT’s bread and butter, and it’s where more of the open looks come from.

“I don’t know what percentage, but I think a vast majority comes from [high pick-and-rolls], because teams have to make a decision when you have LeBron attacking the basket,” Battier said. “You’re going to step up and try to stop the penetration. If you do that you’re going to have to leave one of the corners. That’s why we do it. It makes a team make a tough decision on what efficient shot are you going to give up.”

Right now, there’s just no good answer for teams. The HEAT shoot the corner three more than anyone and hit them at the third highest rate. At the other end of the spectrum, in the restricted area, the HEAT are working on a truly impressive campaign. As a team, they’re shooting 66.9 percent in the restricted area, tops in the NBA. But that figure doesn’t just lead this season, it also leads all teams going back to the 2001 season. In fact, the only other teams to crack the 66 percent mark were the 2007 and 2008 Suns.

Over the last 13 seasons, there has been a positive relationship between percentage of field goal attempts from the corner and field goal percentage in the restricted area. The corner three opens up the floor for attackers and attackers open up the floor for corner threes.

“So much space is created by having corner three-point shooters. It’s a vast, vast difference from teams that play two traditional bigs and put them both on the block or one on the high block and one on the low block. There’s just no room for penetrators to operate. If you don’t have guys who can shoot three-pointers, the floor becomes very small. You’re able to, as a defender, offer much more help,” Battier said. “So that’s the theory behind pace and space.”

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The pacers showed how to beat Miami by playing very physically and targeting Battier on the defense.

Then i dont think in offense he will be capable to hit so consistently the 3.

I think we are playing too great to early this season ! i dont know if we can have a second gear ? Ray Allen to fit more with the system ? Mike Miller getting some minutes ?

Will LeBron continue to shoot at that rate ? Wade is back in shape for how long ?

Anyway, it's a pleasure to watch the Heat at the moment

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Regarding the Pacers, I imagine Coach Spo will have a different defensive rotation when the playoffs come around...assuming we even MEET Indiana in the playoffs.

and to Danny: Good stuff as always. Great information as usual!

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The pacers showed how to beat Miami by playing very physically and targeting Battier on the defense.

Then i dont think in offense he will be capable to hit so consistently the 3.

I think we are playing too great to early this season ! i dont know if we can have a second gear ? Ray Allen to fit more with the system ? Mike Miller getting some minutes ?

Will LeBron continue to shoot at that rate ? Wade is back in shape for how long ?

Anyway, it's a pleasure to watch the Heat at the moment

We dont want Miller to kill himself during the regular season, he can grow chemistry during practices anyway

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