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Pelicans must prioritize the three-point shot, starting tonight against Pistons

Time to start keeping tabs on 3s more closely

New Orleans Pelicans v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans have a game against the Detroit Pistons this evening, but there’s few reasons to bore anyone with a number of matchup details.

If there’s one thing that’s become abundantly clear, breakdowns of opponents for preview purposes aren’t as important as they were in previous seasons. Rather, most of the focus should be on the three-point shot and the Pelicans have been a great example of this disturbing league-wide trend.

So while it would be fun to delve into Jerami Grant’s breakout season (23.3 PPG, 5.5 REB, 3.0 AST, 1.2 BLK) or talk about how Blake Griffin’s professional basketball career is on life support (12.3 PPG, 36.5 FG%), I’m going to be razor focused on how well New Orleans shoots the three-ball as well as watching how they guard/limit the long-range attempts of the Pistons.

When the Pelicans finish with a higher three-point field goal percentage than opponents, they win. They’re 10-2 this season in such games. Also interesting to note, when opponents have tallied 15 or more made threes, the Pelicans have a 2-12 record on the season. Considering the fact that New Orleans is giving up the most three-point attempts (41.6) in the league, it’s not difficult to surmise they’re playing with more fire than any other team any given night.

Case in point, the Pelicans were in Chicago earlier this week. The Bulls were averaging 35.6 three-point attempts entering the matchup. They finished with 47 versus the Pelicans, hitting 25 of them to set a new franchise record this past Wednesday. Two days later, the Mavericks established a new franchise record in their win over New Orleans, canning 25 threes on 45 attempts.

‘Play the Pels, set a new record,’ has never seemed truer; however, as I hinted previously, the three-point shot is having a profound effect on the entire league. Zach Kram detailed this well in an article on the Ringer a few days ago, but if you prefer a tidy visual, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton shows the growing influence of the three-ball in a simple graph on Twitter.

It’s simple: teams must utilize but account for the three-point shot more than ever. As Brandon Ingram said yesterday after practice, coaches are paying attention to the analytics so attempts are up. And when teams get rolling, look out.

If the Pelicans hope to beat the Pistons later today, they can’t let Wayne Ellington or Grant catch fire from the outside like Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The same goes for Delon Wright and every other player Dwane Casey sends into the game.

That’s a shame for a team that rosters Zion Williamson, the most explosive young scorer in the paint, but keeping tabs on the three-ball has become the biggest fact of NBA life.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (11-14) at Detroit Pistons (7-19)

When: February 14, 6:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: FSNO

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.