In the modern NBA, three-point shooting is the name of the game. Teams must shoot them and must be able to defend them. For most of this season, the Wizards have done neither.
That is until recently, when they have made significant strides in both areas. Over the past several weeks, they have caught up to the times, and it's winning them games.
The Wizards beat the Magic on Friday night for their eighth win in 12 games. They shot 15-for-27 (55.6%) from long range and held Orlando to 7-for-33 (21.2%). The Wizards are now 18-6 all-time when they make 15 threes or more.
Against the Magic, Jeff Green led the way with six threes on nine attempts. He tied a season-high with 22 points. Bradley Beal went 5-for-7 from deep with a team-high 27 points.
Green and Beal have helped turn the Wizards into a dangerous group from the perimeter in recent weeks. Since Dec. 29, they are shooting 38.8 percent from three, good for fifth in the NBA. They are also fifth in the league in threes made per game (12.8) during that span.
Those are marked improvements from their season numbers. On the year, the Wizards are 26th in three-point percentage (33.9) and a mediocre 15th in makes (11.2/g).
During this 12-game turnaround, Green is shooting 40 percent on 5.4 attempts per game. Beal is shooting 38.8 percent on 8.2 attempts.
Tomas Satoransky has hit on 48.5 percent from three during this stretch, Sam Dekker has shot 41.7 percent, Otto Porter Jr. 41.1 percent and Chasson Randle 39.1. That's six rotation players hitting 38.8 percent or better from long range.
The Wizards' turnaround from three has coincided with the absence of John Wall, who went down for the season with left heel surgery before this run began on Dec. 29. Without looking at the numbers, some may guess the improvement in three-point shooting is because they are passing more without him and therefore getting more open looks. But that isn't the case.
The Wizards are passing more, but they are actually creating fewer wide open three attempts (defender 6+ feet away). They are just making them more often, perhaps a result of guys just finally heating up after slumping for months to begin the year.
From the start of the season to Dec. 28, the Wizards shot just 34.8 percent on open threes, 26th out of 30 NBA teams. Since Dec. 29, they are hitting on 40.4 percent of them.
Making threes is good. So is stopping other teams from making them, and the Wizards are doing that, too.
The turnaround for their three-point defense happened around Dec. 22. If you're looking for a corollary, it was two games after Trevor Ariza joined the Wizards in a trade from the Suns.
Ariza was brought in to help shore up their perimeter defense, and that he has done. On Friday night, the Wizards held the Magic to seven threes one night after doing the same to the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors, of course, are pretty decent at shooting from deep.
Since Dec. 22, the Wizards are holding opponents to 35 percent from three, 11th-best in the NBA. Their 10.8 threes allowed per game in that stretch ranks 10th in that stretch.
Now compare those numbers to the Wizards' dreadful stats for the full season. They are 27th in threes allowed per game (12.0/g) and 28th in opponents three-point percentage (36.9).
Ariza has helped and so has Porter, who returned from injury on Jan. 2. The Wizards have also seen solid effort on the perimeter from Satoransky and Randle. And going small with Green at center more often has made them better-suited for switching on shooters.
Add it all up, and the Wizards are becoming a much better team on the perimeter, both offensively and defensively. Given how important threes are these days, it's no coincidence they are turning things around.
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