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Nets three-point shooting soars ... and it shouldn’t be a surprise

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

When Monday morning dawned and three-point data from Sunday’s games were compiled, the Brooklyn Nets found themselves at No. 2 in deep shooting percentage, behind only the Indiana Pacers.

The Nets are shooting 41 percent in the first six games of the season. Only the Pacers are higher at 44.6 percent. The Warriors, by comparison, are seventh, and the Rockets 15th. And over the past three games, the Nets and Clippers are basically tied for first at 45.7 percent.

Not bad, but that’s kind of a small sample, you might say. It is indeed a small sample, but it also is part of a trend that began after last year’s All-Star Break.

After shooting poorly —despite firing up the second most threes in the league— the Nets took off from February on. After the break, the Nets were fifth in three-point shooting percentage. Overall, they finished 20th for the season following a woeful start. That’s up from 26th in Kenny Atkinson’s first year.

In fact, Brooklyn came within one three-pointer of breaking the NBA record for a game in a late season contest vs. the Bulls. If only Spencer Dinwiddie’s last minute shot hadn’t gone in and out ...

And they had the best three-point shooter in the NBA after the break as well. Joe Harris shot 47.1 percent from the All-Star Game until the end of the regular season.

This season, the numbers continue to be a big positive for the Nets, now 2-4 as they head into Monday’s clash with the Knicks. As Tom Dowd notes on the Nets official site, they made 47.6 percent on 20-of-42 attempts Sunday night, both season-highs. It was Brooklyn’s fifth straight game shooting at least 40 percent, a stretch during which they’re shooting 44.2 percent.

“We’ve been shooting it well from three,” said Harris after the loss to Golden State. “That’s the way that we want to play. It’s tough. You shoot that well, you expect to be winning games, but obviously they’re a great shooting team on the other end and that’s what it’s going to be like most nights. So it’s going to take other stuff, the hustle plays, the stops defensively. We can’t just rely on three-point shooting.”

The Nets may be inconsistent in other areas —like rebounding— but in stroking the long ball, they’re on fire.

Individually, the Nets have seven players with three-point percentages of 40 or better, topped by Harris at 51.9 percent. The big surprise is D’Angelo Russell’s number. He’s shooting 48.6 percent for the season and has 11 threes (on 17 attempts) in the last two games.

The others at 40 or above are: Spencer Dinwiddie, Jared Dudley, Shabazz Napier, Rodions Kurucs, and Jarrett Allen. Caris LeVert is at 36 percent.

Moreover, Russell and Caris LeVert are now ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in pull-up three-point shooting ... in the league. DLo is hitting a blistering 61.5 percent according to The Nylon Calculus, followed by LeVert’s 60 percent.

One player who the Nets pay to make threes, Allen Crabbe, suffered from a preseason ankle injury and a bad start, only returning to form Sunday. Before facing the Warriors, Crabbe was shooting 24.1 percent. A 4-of-7 performance, including a couple of clutch threes in the Nets big comeback, raised his percentage to 34.6.

“That’s the Allen Crabbe we need,” said Atkinson after the game. “I felt like he has not been in rhythm. In his defense, slowed by that injury. We need him back. He’s a big part of what we do, his ability to stretch the floor. I thought we got layups at the rim and Jarrett Allen got some dunks because they have to stay out, they have to stay connected to him.”

Crabbe of course started slowly last season, very slowly, before erupting after the break like most of his teammates.

Crabbe took a while to settle in Brooklyn, shooting 35.3 percent from three through his first 50 games of last season. Then he (finally) became more aggressive. He not only shot 41.7 percent from deep over his last 25 games (February 6 through April 11), including 10 games with 20 or more points and 10 with five or more threes made, culminating in a 41-point, 8-three effort on April 9, his 26th birthday.

Other than Napier, Dudley and, to a lesser degree, Kurucs, the Nets didn’t add a lot of three-point shooters in the offseason. Most of the improvement has been individual work. Russell had put three-point shooting on his summer agenda along with lower body strength. So did LeVert. So far, it’s working, at least by the numbers. Now, the Nets will have to make enough of those shots to win close games.