Last year opponents shot a robust 36.2 percent from 3-point range against the Dallas Mavericks, good enough for 18th in the NBA.
This year the Mavs have made a concerted effort to try and chase opponents off the 3-point line. The results: Foes are converting from downtown at a 33.8 clip, which is the 15th-best in the league.
“We’re trying to protect the rim and also run guys off threes,” coach Jason Kidd said following Monday’s practice at BioSteel Practice Facility. “It’s not easy in this league. There’s a lot of threes being taken.”
In the six games the Mavs have played so far this season, every opponent has attempted at least 30 triples against them. Sacramento guard Buddy Hield even came off the bench and attempted 12 three-pointers – he only made three – during the Mavs’ 105-99 victory over the Kings on Sunday.
That’s why Kidd explained that it’s hard preventing players from attempting threes, especially when they’re hellbent on attempting those threes.
“I think last night was a great example, Kidd said. “We tried our best on Buddy Hield, and he still got 12 threes off.
“It’s hard, because everyone’s shooting threes. Those guys are out there contesting and trying to run guys off (the three-point stripe) and then sending them to our bigs for the verticality and the physical plays at the rim. The guys are doing a good job of it right now.”
Kidd knows the ball will be flying from downtown Tuesday night at 6:30 when the Mavs (4-2) host the Miami Heat (5-1) at American Airlines Center. Heat guards Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro are attempting 8.8 and 7.2 three-pointers, respectively, per game.
“You look at the Heat, and they’ve got guys at each position that can shoot threes,” Kidd said. “So, when you talk about Robinson, Herro, (Kyle) Lawry – guys that you will be chasing — they’re going to shoot them no matter how close you are to them.
“We just got to make it as hard as possible. It’s an impossible job.”
It’s a job the Mavs must complete if they plan on defeating a Miami squad that’s one of the best the NBA has to offer. But after the Kings converted just 7-of-36 three-pointers for a frosty 19.4 percent, the Mavs believe they’re ready to lock horns with the Heat.
“That’s definitely huge and important right now in the league, especially keying in on personnel as well as the guys up there that shoot the ball at an extremely high clip,” center Dwight Powell said. “So, being able to lock into (the Kings’) tendencies, and our guards did a great job of limiting their shots and their good shots.
“So, naturally those percentages will come down, but that’s definitely going to be the focus for us. (Miami is) obviously a very talented team, a very physical team, a great defensive team, and they can score the ball as well. So all around we’ve got to lock in on our game plan and on personnel and compete from the jump.”
The Mavs are averaging 41.2 tries from 3-point territory, as Kidd admits that’s the way the game has turned since his playing days (1994-2013). But he would like for them to improve on their 31.2 percent shooting from downtown.
“I think the three-point shot is an important shot in today’s game,” Kidd said. “We might have averaged 18 threes (in his early playing days). That would be unheard of in today’s basketball world.
“There’s 30-plus threes being taken, so you’ve got to be able to guard it and you have to be able to make them. In this league also, if you’re not making them you’ve got to be able to play defense if you want to give your team a chance to win.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. leads the Mavs with 38.6 percent shooting from downtown while attempting 7.3 per game. Jalen Brunson is shooting 40 percent on treys while throwing up 3.3 per contest. Also for the Mavs, Reggie Bullock (31 percent/4.8 tries) and Luka Doncic (23.8 percent/7.0 attempts) have been hoisting up their fair share of three-pointers.
“We believe we have (three-point) shooters (and) we’ve got guys who can make them,” Kidd said. “We started off slow, but I think at the end of the season hopefully we’re in the middle of the pack if not at the top.
“Also, looking at shots taken, I don’t know if we’re still No. 1 in uncontested shots, but we were up there, so that’s a good thing. If we continue to do that we really believe that we’re going to make shots.”
During his playing days, Kidd was a career 34.9 percent shooter from downtown. However, he only shot 27.2 percent from three-point range as a rookie before shooting over 40 percent in three of his final six seasons.
“I just had to age,” Kidd joked. “It’s like wine. As you get older the wine gets better.”
Then in all seriousness, Kidd said: “I think you’ve got to practice, but it’s just a different time in your career. I didn’t have to be good at the beginning of my career shooting the ball. I did what I could do at a high level no matter what anybody wrote or said about shooting.
“My game was to play defense and set the table for my teammates. As a teammate, I have enough scorers around me to win games, so I didn’t have to (shoot threes). But as I got older and wanted to stay in the league, I had to figure out how to make a three and I worked on it.”
Kidd also had to stop listening to the critics who questioned his abilities as a shooter.
“I think sometimes we get labeled, and that hurts players,” Kidd said. “They might not say it does. If they get labeled and they can’t fight through that label, to me sometimes outside influences can ruin a career.
PORZINGIS, KLEBER UPDATE: The Mavs still aren’t sure if forward Kristaps Porzingis will be able to play in Tuesday’s game against the Heat.
Porzingis has missed the last three games after suffering tightness in his lower back during the Oct. 26 home opener against the Houston Rockets.
“He did the walk-through, he did practice (Monday),” coach Json Kidd said. “He looked good. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
The news isn’t as positive for forward Maxi Kleber, who left Sunday’s game against the Kings after just seven minutes while dealing with a strained back.
“He didn’t do anything today, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Kidd said. “We’ll have a better report for you tomorrow.”
DONCIC RIGHT BEHIND KIDD: Luka Doncic needs just nine points to pass Jason Kidd and become the 14th all-time leading scorer in the Mavs’ history.
Will he be able to past Kidd tonight against Miami?
“Maybe I’ll hold him out,” Kidd joked. “Maybe we won’t start him.”
Doncic has played 204 games for the Mavs and has scored 5,250 points, while Kidd played in 500 contests for the Mavs and tallied 5,258 points.
“That’s awesome, and he’s going to pass a lot of people in a hurry,” Kidd said. “But that just shows how talented Luka is. He plays the game at a high level, and he can definitely put the ball in the basket, and he’s done that for us.”
Dirk Nowitzki is the Mavs’ all-time leading scorer with 31,560 points.
“Soon, (Doncic will) be right there behind Dirk, and at some point he’ll pass Dirk, too,” Kidd said. “That’s awesome for someone at 22 to just climb the ladder.
“There’s so many great scorers here in Mavericks’ history. There’s a lot of names on that list that are very talented.”