CLEVELAND -- Sometimes, a basketball team can rely too much on the three-point shot, but the Cleveland Cavaliers count that more as an offensive weapon than a crutch.
In a four-game sweep of the Detroit Pistons during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Cavaliers averaged 34.5 three-point attempts per game, and knocked down 14.3 (41.3 percent) of those shots from beyond the arc every night.
“Considering that the No. 1 team the last two years is the most deadly team from three, I’m going to side on the three-point shot,” Cavaliers small forward Richard Jefferson said. “I think San Antonio has even used it to their advantage over the years.
“As the game of basketball evolves, people are starting to see how important it can be in your game. No one had ever hit 300 threes, and Steph (Curry) hits 400 threes in the best season ever, the best regular season ever.
“Can it be dangerous? Yes. You have to have a good balance, and I think most good teams do. Whenever you have LeBron on the floor, we know we’re going to get points in the paint. We know we’re going to get attacks to the basket, so if other guys like Swish, Kyrie and Kevin are using the three, it’s probably to our favor.”
Veteran shooting guard J.R. Smith has never been one to shy away from taking long-range shots, and he has served as the Cavaliers’ leading marksman from beyond the three-point arc since being acquired in a mid-season trade last January. Smith knocked down an average of 4.3 three-pointers per game and buried 51.5 percent of his looks from three-point range in the Cavaliers’ four-game sweep of the Pistons.
“Everything. Everything. Everything. He brings everything to the table,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said.
In the Cavaliers’ 107-90 win over the Pistons in Game 2 of the opening-round series, Smith knocked down seven of his 13 looks from three-point range
“We base our offense off ball movement, player movement, and I’m a true believer in the ball having energy,” James said then. “When you’ve got guys making shots, it’s a conscious effort from me to not fall into it. When my shooters have got it going, I have to be the one saying, ‘Okay, you need to get to the rim,’ or ‘You need to continue to put pressure on the defense’ because I don’t want to add to the burden of us just casting three-point shots.
“I want to be a guy that continues to put pressure on the rim. I did take four of them, but I was still living in the paint. That’s my mindset. That’s always been my mindset. We have shooters that are our designated snipers. That’s what we’ve got them for and I’m not one of them. I’m more like a tank or something like that.”
And going forward, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue wants Smith to continue leading the charge from three-point range and shoot his kind of shots in rhythm.
“I like it when it’s a little more contested than wide open when J.R. shoots the basketball,” Lue said. “That’s what he’s great at, but he had eight threes down there in Game 2 in Atlanta (last year). We were moving the basketball. We were playing with pace and pushing the pace.
“J.R., he’s the one that benefits from that because they can try to get back in transition for Kyrie and Kevin or our bigs when they’re running up the floor, and that’s leaving J.R. open. When we’re playing with pace and playing fast, that helps and benefits J.R.”