The fall was inevitable.
In the 15 years since Reggie Miller became the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA Playoff history, the League has become faster and far more perimeter-oriented. Given that many teams have been shooting threes at a higher clip than ever, it’s not surprising Miller’s time atop this list finally came to an end.
Indeed, it’s more notable Miller’s 58 treys mark actually lasted as long as it did, with the likes of Ray Allen and Danny Green making serious recent runs at it.
But now, of course, comes a baby-faced assassin who doesn’t so much break records as send them into large hadron colliders for de-particalization. By now, you know NBA MVP Stephen Curry owns the two best three-point shooting regular seasons in NBA history and in the last round against Houston topped Miller’s post-season mark.
Curry now has 73 three-pointers this postseason, which is a terrifying pace when put in historic perspective. At this rate, he’s on track to almost lap Miller’s No. 2 all-time mark.
So how unique, exactly, has Curry’s post-season streak been?
To shed light here, I’ve pit Curry’s performance so far against the most torrid three-point shooting performances in the best and most pressure-packed postseasons outside the NBA Playoffs. Those include NCAA Division I’s March Madness, a Spanish basketball league often ranked as the best in Europe and the top international basketball league outside of the NBA.
Most Prolific Playoff Bombers in History of Big-Time Basketball
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State (2015)
Projected three-pointers made: 103
Three-pointers per game: 4.9
2. Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers (2000)
Three-pointers made: 58
Three-pointers per game: 2.6
Badass-o-meter: Curry on track to break record by 77.6% margin.
NCAA Division I
1. Glen Rice, Michigan (1989)
Three-pointers made: 27
Three-pointers per game: 4.5
2. Freddie Banks, UNLV (1987)
Three-pointers made: 26
Three-pointers per game: 5.2
Badass-o-meter: Rice broke record by 3.8% margin.
Liga ACB (Top Spanish league)
1. Mark Simpson (1992)
Three-pointers made: 42
Three-pointers per game: 3
2. Jordi Villacampa (1993)
Three-pointers made: 40
Three-pointers per game: 2.5
Badass-o-meter: Simpson has a 5% margin lead on the record.
1. Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona Regal (2013)
Three-pointers made: 23
Three-pointers per game: 3.29
2. Sergio Llull, Real Madrid (2013)
Three-pointers made: 18
Three-pointers per game: 3.6
Badass-o-meter: Navarro holds record by a 27.8% margin.
Curry’s extraterrestrial separation from the pack is partly attributable to the fact the NBA Playoffs are so much longer—up to 28 possible games—than March Madness or Euroleague playoffs. So he has been able to not only get hot, but stay hot and pile up the stats longer than other top bombers.
Usually, opponents in a long series spend plenty of time analyzing and gameplanning for superstar shooter’s tendencies and preferred spots on the court. They aim to make the shooter uncomfortable. Curry, however, seems to relish contorting his body into awkward positions and actually practices shooting from uncomfortable positions.
He has a killer instinct that’s not only directed at opponents, but at his own tendencies and comfort zones. In this age of analytics that’s a powerful tool for a man wanting “to obliterate every shooting bounty put before him on the practice floor,” as SI.com’s Rob Mahoney writes. “He wants to not only whittle down his turnovers, but do so while still breaking ankles and throwing no-look passes as he likes. It’s not enough for Curry to have his cake and eat it, too. Give him a slice and he’ll come back for the bakery.”
The question now is this: Can Curry and his Warriors keep up their pace in an NBA Finals that they are 6-point favorites to win? In the above list, Curry is projected to make 103 three-pointers by the end of this postseason, assuming he hits 5 threes a game against Cleveland and that series lasts six games.
Before this year, few people would have predicted Curry could maintain such a clip through four rigorous series. Now, with Golden State so close to the prize, only a fool would predict otherwise.
*The Euroleague’s postseason typically consists of a best-of-five series in the quarterfinals and single-elimination in the semifinals and finals. Above records exclude data from 2000-01, the league’s only postseason to include two best-of-three and two best-of-five playoff rounds.
Evin Demirel writes more about NBA basketball, including a look at the fine arts connoisseur-ification of former No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Barry Carroll, at thesportsseer.com.