In some ways the 16 threes the Toronto Raptors made in Game 1 were no fluke. Though they set a franchise playoff record, three-point shooting has been a calling card for the Raptors all season.
They may not shoot 51.7 percent, as they did in Game 1, but there is no question this Raptors team is more dangerous from long range than they have ever been before. It was a big point of emphasis last offseason and throughout the year as they made a dramatic shift in their scoring philosophy.
Following the Wizards' Game 1 loss, guard Bradley Beal expressed some doubt as to whether certain Raptors players can keep it up.
“There was a lot of guys who we didn’t expect to make those threes who made them,” Beal told reporters in Toronto. “We’ll live with those.”
Raptors guard C.J. Miles was relayed what Beal said and issued a response.
“You might not call certain guys shooters,” Miles said. “But it’s part of their skillset. The shots we get in our offense, we work on them every day. We drill them, and those guys know where they’re coming from.”
Let's look at the numbers. As mentioned above, the Raptors made a huge jump in three-point shooting from the previous season. After ranking 21st and 22nd in three-point makes and attempts in 2016-17, they moved all the way to fourth and third in 2017-18. The Raptors took 35.4 percent more threes this season and made 33.5 percent more triples than they did one year before.
The 16 threes were considerably more than their 11.8 per game average during the regular season, but 16 is not an outlandish number for them. Toronto made 16 threes or more 12 different times this past season. They had only done so five total times in their previous franchise history. Only the Rockets and Nets made 16-plus threes this season more often than Toronto.
The Raptors have a deep stable of shooters and that was on display in Game 1. Miles, who made 2.3 threes per game during the season, hit 4-of-7 on Saturday. Serge Ibaka shoots 36 percent, great for a big man, and went 3-for-4 in Game 1.
Delon Wright also hit three, while DeMar DeRozan and OG Anunoby had two apiece. Seven different players hit at least one three for Toronto. Even Pascal Siakam, a power forward who shoots 22 percent from long range, made one.
This was all despite Kyle Lowry, their best three-point shooter, going 1-for-4, and backup point guard Fred VanVleet, who shoots 41.4 percent from three, missing the game.
What the Raptors did in Game 1 is exactly what they envisioned when they added guys like Miles last summer and committed to the longball. They hope threes will carry them further in the playoffs than DeRozan and Lowry have been before.
The Raptors are going to keep shooting threes and it will be up to the Wizards to stop them. The good news is that they are equipped to do so.
The Wizards held opponents to the sixth-lowest three-point percentage (34.9) in the NBA this season and the 12th-fewest threes per game (10.2). They have Bradley Beal roaming the perimeter and he contested the ninth-most threes of any player in the NBA this season.
The Wizards proved during the regular season they could solve the Raptors three-point attack. Washington held Toronto to 9.3 threes per game in their four meetings. In three of the four games they kept them under their season average and Toronto shot 30.3 percent or worse from three in those three games.
It was early in the year and the Raptors were still adjusting their new style, but on Nov. 5 the Raptors made only five threes in a loss to the Wizards in Toronto. Those five threes were a season-low and their 20.8 three-point percentage was their second-lowest of the season.
Only two teams, the Warriors and Grizzlies, held the Raptors to a lower three-point percentage this season than the Wizards did (29.6). Washington played them four times, while the Warriors and Grizzlies each saw them twice.
The numbers show that the Raptors can make threes like they did in Game 1 on a regular basis. But the stats also demonstrate the Wizards are more than capable of stopping them. Something has to give and it could be the biggest factor that determines the outcome of this series.
NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!