By: J.R. Smooth

How will San Antonio defend Golden State’s 3-point shooting? San Antonio was the NBA’s 12th-best team at defending the three-ball during the regular season (based on raw-percentage), giving up the league’s fifth-fewest attempts. The Spurs finished with the third-ranked overall defense. One reason why is because they surrendered the fifth-best eFG%, at 48% (for an explanation on how effective field goal percentage is calculated, please click here).

In four regular season meetings against Golden State – the NBA’s top 3-point shooting team – San Antonio allowed an average 5.9-for-17 shooting mark from downtown (34.8%) per 100 possessions. The regular season’s Warriors aren’t giving Gregg Popovich sleepless nights. This new playoff version, on the other hand …

In six playoff games against Denver, Golden State took an average 24.6 3-pointers per 100 possessions, while converting on 9.9 of them – good enough for 40.1% (right in-line with their regular season percentage, 40.3%). As has been well-documented, Denver’s perimeter defense was historically bad. Will San Antonio do any better?

The top-five 3-point shooting teams during the 2012-13 regular season are as follows: Golden State, Miami, Oklahoma City, New York, and San Antonio. Since we’ve already discussed the Warriors shooting prowess in their regular season split with the Spurs, we will delve into San Antonio’s 3-point defense against the league’s other elite long-range teams. In eight combined games (whereby San Antonio went, 2-6) against Miami (0-2), Oklahoma City (2-2), and New York (0-2), the Spurs allowed an average of 21.7 3-pointers per contest – just over the league average of 19.9. Of those 21.7 attempts, Miami, Oklahoma City, and New York combined to convert 9.1 3-pointers per game – well over the league average of 7.2. This is good enough for a 41.2% mark from distance.

The Spurs must do one of two things in defending the 3-point line against Golden State:

  1. Defend the shot better – in other words, have crisp rotations, closeout on shooters hard, hands held high, in opponent faces.
  2. Minimize the amount of 3’s Golden State is able to attempt. Most of that begins and ends with clean rotations defensively. If San Antonio’s rotations are on point, the Warriors *should* have problems getting off looks, as good defensive rotations invariably lead to turnovers and shot clock violations.

However, there is room for a high-volume 3-point shooting team to get off lots of looks against San Antonio. The top-five 3-point shooting teams (in terms of attempts) for the 2012-13 season are as follows: New York, Houston, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland, and Atlanta.

In two regular season games against the Knicks, New York attempted 28 3-pointers per 100 possessions (3.4 shy of their season average of 31.4). In four regular season games against the Rockets, Houston attempted 28.6 3-pointers per 100 possessions (0.5 fewer than their season average of 29.1). In three games against Los Angeles, the Lakers attempted 25.5 3-pointers per 100 possessions (0.1 greater-than their season average of 25.4). In three games against the Trail Blazers, Portland attempted 24.2 3-pointers per 100 possessions (0.3 less-than their season average of 24.5). And in two games against the Hawks, Atlanta attempted 17 3-pointers per 100 possessions (7.3 fewer than their season average, 24.3).

Among volume 3-point shooting teams, San Antonio was able to drastically diminish 3-pointers attempted against only Atlanta. Something’s got to give. And whichever way it does will be very telling into who wins this series.

**All stats used courtesy of