Some clichés are more adaptable than others.
Take, for instance, the old saw that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. This has been transformed for use in various realms of endeavor, including basketball's ubiquitous 'Live by the 3-pointer, die by the 3-pointer.'
This usually comes up when a team that relies heavily on threes loses a game, more often than not in a tournament when all but one team will lose anyway.
It sounds so right, though. How can a team win when its scoring depends on jumpshots? Jumpshots are just so unreliable.
Except when they're not.
If you've seen Duke play this season, or actually most any time since the late 1990s, you know both the importance and effectiveness of the 3-pointer as a part of its offensive arsenal. Somehow this has eluded general notice, as if Mike Krzyzewski is too respected as a coach to resort to such a chancy stratagem.
Well, through 23 games the Blue Devils are converting 41.6 percent from the bonusphere, best in the ACC and second-best at Duke since the shot was instituted in 1987. The only Krzyzewski squad that was more accurate from long distance across an entire season was the 1992 team that won the national championship.
There have been only two other times the Blue Devils exceeded this year's 23.1 bonusphere bombs per outing - 2001 (27.1) and 2002 (23.7). Those teams won 35 and 31 games, respectively, with the '01 unit winning the NCAA title.
Since ACC play began, only once has Duke attempted fewer than 20 threes in a game; that was in a win over Florida State. Remarkably given the caliber of opposition, the Devils achieved at least breakeven accuracy from beyond the arc all but twice in 10 ACC games. Both times they didn't they made 8 of 25: on the road in a loss at Clemson, and on the road in a win at Miami.
Against Syracuse's vaunted zone defense, half of Duke's field goal attempts and just under half of its baskets (15 of 31) came from long distance. That was a deft strategic choice that nearly secured a remarkable victory, not a sign of desperation or weak discipline.
What's amazing at this point is not that Duke is so successful using threes, but that more observers haven't caught on.
Duke Use Of The 3-Pointer Since Advent Of The Shot
(Through Games of 2-6-14, 1983 Experimental 3-Pointer Not Included)
|Year||3M-3Att||3%||Gs||W-L||3A-FGA||3A as % |