In some ways, NBA basketball has become a game of volume. You can score more points on fewer shots if you make a lot of 3-pointers, and as a result the average number of 3-point attempts per game has nearly doubled over the past 10 years, from 18.4 per game in 2011-12 to a record 35.5 per game this season.
If teams shoot around 35 percent, which they have, give or take, since the early 1990s, it makes sense to let it fly from 3-point range as much as possible. The problem is, however, that the numbers tend to bear themselves out over an entire season. That means on any given night you can get hot and shoot 60 percent from deep, or, as the Boston Celtics found out on Wednesday night, you can go absolutely ice cold.
In Wednesday’s 91-82 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics went 4 for 42 (9.5 percent) from 3-point range, marking the second-worst 3-point shooting night in NBA history for a team with at least 40 attempts. The only worse performance came from the Houston Rockets, who went 4 for 45 from long distance in a 133-84 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies this past February.
Both teams were short-handed on Wednesday, with the Celtics missing Jayson Tatum, Dennis Schroder and Enes Kanter Freedom, among others, and the Clippers without Paul George, Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum, in addition to Kawhi Leonard, who has yet to play this season. Here’s the breakdown of the Celtics’ 3-point shooting from the historically frigid night:
- Jaylen Brown: 1 for 13
- Al Horford: 0 for 7
- Payton Pritchard: 0 for 5
- Josh Richardson: 0 for 5
- Romeo Langford: 0-for 3
- Brodric Thomas: 0 for 3
- Sam Hauser: 1 for 3
- Grant Williams: 2 for 3
Woof. Maybe Grant Williams should have been launching a little more?
Interestingly enough, Clippers guard Luke Kennard made more 3-pointers (five) than the entire Celtics team. You might also think this had to be the worst Celtics shooting performance of the season, but that’s not the case. They notched the worst 3-point percentage by any team this season when they went 2 for 26 (7.7 percent) against the Wizards in October.
It’s remarkable that despite the poor shooting, Boston was still within striking distance in the final minutes on Wednesday night. When the Rockets had their record-setting dry night, they lost by almost 50 points. The Celtics were within four with just over a minute remaining.
It was the third straight loss for the Celtics, who are now 16-19 on the season and in danger of falling out of play-in position. On the season, Boston has made 34 percent of its 3-pointers, good for 22nd in the NBA. Assuming the Celtics hoist 42 more 3-pointers in Friday night’s game against the Suns, they would have to go 25 for 42 (59.5 percent) in order to hit a 34 percent average over the two games. Watch out, Phoenix.