Mavs know importance of shooting, defending better from three-point range next season

DALLAS — It’s become the great equalizer in the NBA over the last few seasons. Now, the Dallas Mavericks hope to make strides both shooting and defending from behind the three-point line next season.

Shooting just 34.4 percent as a team from three-point range during the 2015-16 season, the Mavericks ranked 23rd in the league in that department. The short-handed Mavs then saw that number drop to just 29 percent during their first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, falling in five games in the process after injuries to sharpshooters Chandler Parsons and Deron Williams forced them out of the lineup.

Meanwhile, the Dallas defense allowed 36.4 percent shooting on shots from behind the three-point arc during the series. And after seeing his team give up 34.2 percent from three-point range on the defensive end during the season, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle knows there needs to be improvement on both sides of the ball.

“What we’re seeing more and more of these days, if you watch guys like (Stephen) Curry and (Klay) Thompson and (J.J.) Redick, a lot of these guys are running off screens for 26 and 27-foot shots,” Carlisle said when assessing his team’s three-point shooting. “We have a lot of improvement to do shooting it and guarding it.”

Despite Parsons’ team-best 41.4 percent from three-point range this season, the Mavericks ranked near the bottom of the league in outside shooting. The 27-year-old Parsons also finished with a career-high percentage from three-point range, connecting on 47.5 percent from deep during his final 30 games before requiring arthroscopic knee surgery on March 25 to repair a right medial meniscus.

Vice versa, newcomer Wesley Matthews shot a career-low 36 percent from three during the season and only 28.6 percent behind the arc in the playoffs after battling his way back from surgery on a torn Achilles. He now vows to return much better after leaving Portland as the franchise leader with 826 makes from three-point range in five seasons. And with Matthews expected to have a bounce-back ’16-17 season, the Mavericks hope to find more success from long range.

“As time has gone on, with the three becoming a more potent weapon, teams are doing more things defensively to deter it,” Carlisle confessed during the season.

He added: “We have to stay the course. I think it’s a hard-work thing. You work on it and you get better shots when you defend better. … If we keep working on our defense, better shots will come.”