The Jazz have shown they have mastered the three-point game this season and their mastery of the skill has seen them propelled to number one in the west. But they were entering Steph Curry’s house, the man who has made the three-point shot his signature.
The Golden State Warriors ran out 131-119 winners in a game where they shot 16 of 31 three-pointers against Utah’s 15 of 44. As percentages, the Warriors hit 51 per cent against the Jazz’ 34 per cent.
That’s a combined 75 attempted three-point shots, something that when the rule was introduced to the NBA in 1979 would never have been predicted outside of popular video games where players have been mastering the three for years.
The rule was actually introduced to the American Basketball Association in 1969 and had a dramatic introduction to fans. On November 13, 1967, the Indiana Pacers were losing to the Dallas Chaparrals 118-116 with just one second left on the clock.
Jerry Harkness, who was 92 feet away from the basket and with no time to do anything else, threw a towering Hail Mary towards the goal. It smacked off the backboard and went in, and the crowd went wild, although some didn’t know that it was the end of the game, thinking he had simply tied it up.
That little piece of history is what the three-point shot should be. An exciting, breathtaking moment bringing fans to their feet as they celebrate the audacity and craftsmanship of a long shot.
Fast forward 50 years, and that isn’t the way it feels anymore.
Now teams are averaging 35 attempts per game, which would be fine if the success rate was lower, but it isn’t.
When the three-point rule was introduced, the concept was that each possession should earn a team a point on average and that the added difficulty of a three-point shot would mean that one in three would be scored, keeping the balance of risk versus reward.
But since then, players’ skills have improved, and with it, their shooting efficiency from three-point range, the designated arc that separates the added value score from the standard two-pointer.
As a caveat to that, coaches have utilised this, creating more opportunities for their players to shoot from range.
This season so far, there have been 45 games where teams have combined for over 90 three-point attempts; before this season, there had only ever been 16.
The skill of the current players has reduced the risk. But the ultimate change this has created in the game is the reduction of points scored in the paint, the 19ft by 16ft painted area directly under the basket.
Basketball’s whole objective was to work the ball closer to the basket and take the most straightforward shot and walk away with the points. That’s where the slam dunk became a weapon and made stars of people.
But more than that, the three-point has made the game boring. Yes, arguably the most athletic and dynamic of US sports, and the highest-scoring has become stale.
Players are now driving into the key and then laying it off outside for someone to take a three-point shot. It’s rhythmic and not in a good way. Basketball has become all about getting someone an open three-shot, and the NBA needs to act to fix the issue.
When the three-point was introduced, it was done to add dynamism, deliver those breathtaking moments, and create different ways to play the game. It did that, but now it’s further and it’s taken away that dynamism.
It created a game where feats of spectacular long threes have become standard, but teams won’t change the way they play unless forced. Maybe now is the time that the league looks and sets its course for the next ten years.
It’s all well and good giving us fans high scoring games like Sunday’s but not if it becomes a monotonous game of long threes that are impossible to defend. So I plead, NBA, you’ve changed the rules before, so please consider changing them again.