In the second go 'round of 2015 NBA Finals, the 2016 version of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors matchup is once again expected to be a high-scoring affair. Plenty of the shots made are expected to be from beyond the arc, but, unlike 2015, the wine and gold plan to keep pace with the Warriors from three-point land. Doing so will be vital in order to beat the best regular season team ever in the NBA Finals.
In last year's Finals, the Cavaliers were dominated from beyond the arc. Whether it was the fact that Cleveland was without two members of their Big Three - forward Kevin Love and guard Kyrie Irving - due to injuries or just going cold, three-point shooting played a key factor in the Warriors run to the NBA title in 2015, especially in the Finals. In fact, of the players who received significant minutes (more than 14 minutes per game), the Warriors had the best three individual shooting percentages from long distance: Harrison Barnes (42.9 percent), Andre Iguodala (40), and Stephen Curry (38.5).
- Cavs: 8.2 made threes per game, made just 29.3 percent of shots from three-point land
- Warriors: 11.2 made threes per game, made 36 percent of shots from three-point range
Part of the reason the Cavs struggled from three-point range against the Warriors was having players such as guards J.R. Smith (29.4 percent from beyond the arc) and Matthew Dellavedova (28.3) shoot ice cold the entire series in the absence of Love and Irving. Iman Shumpert's 32 percent led the team for players who received significant minutes. Yes, Shump with a bum shoulder was the team's three-point shooting specialist.
But, in 2016, the picture is brighter for the Cavs in terms of distance shots. Sharp-shooting forwards Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson have helped bolster a now-healthy roster that has seen the Cavaliers become the hottest shooting team in the playoffs. Making 43.4 percent of their shots from beyond the arc as a team, Cleveland is first among the 16 teams who made the playoffs. Yes, the wine and gold are ahead of Bay City (40.3 percent). Surprisingly, the Cavs have also attempted the most three-pointers per game (33.2 threes attempted per game); 2.3 attempts more than the Warriors.
Of the eight Cavaliers who have played significant time (more than 14 minutes per game) and attempted at least one three in the playoffs, six are making more than 40 percent of their shots from long distance, including five above 45 percent and one above 50 percent:
- Channing Frye: 57.8 percent
- Iman Shumpert: 47.4 percent
- J.R. Smith: 46.2 percent
- Kyrie Irving: 45.6 percent
- Richard Jefferson: 45.5 percent
- Kevin Love: 44.6 percent
- LeBron James: 32.2 percent
- Matthew Dellavedova: 28 percent
Even though James has struggled with his outside shot, he is able to bring double-teams when the ball in his hands. With how talented he is, No. 23 can then find the open shooter, and they have been able to knock down the open shot.
Obviously, against a team like Golden State and their "Splash Brothers", three-point shooting will be a key if the Cavaliers want to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland. If the wine and gold continue to shoot as they have throughout the playoffs, they might just have enough fire power to dismantle the Warriors and end the long-standing title drought on the Northcoast.