Breakfast Special: 3 is More Than 2, 2 is More Than 0

2019 might go down in history as The Year of the Three-Point Backlash, and the Toronto Raptors demonstrated the way forward with a guy who, of course, was coached up from a rookie by Gregg Popovich, the dean of the New Old School in San Antonio.

Kawhi Leonard had 45 points on 16-of-22 shooting, but it’s how he did it that makes this a subject deserving of a deeper dive into Pop’s new NBA reality.

If you count by twos, you’d say “that’s 32 points”, and you’d be right. But Kawhi also shot 13-of-17 as he was able to fight his way to the free throw line by aggressively attacking the basket. He shot three three-pointers…and missed all of them.

And when you think about it, eFG% correctly figures out that three is more than two, but old-fashioned field goal percentage reminds us that two is more than zero, and True Shooting’s there to remind us that two “and-one” makes three.

All of the above added up to the Raptors beating the Utah Jazz at home 122-116 to ring in the New Year on a high note.

Toronto shot 7-of-20 from three as a team, but they shot 38-of-62 (61.3 percent!) on two-point shots. The squad also canned 25-of-35 from the line, proving that “3 is more than 2, 2 is more than 0, and 2 and-1 make 3.”

We’ll see if it works in the playoffs, but after Houston’s Western Conference Finals outing in 2018, another 27 missed threes in a row by one of these gunslinging deep-ball teams and a copycat league may start watching Nick Nurse and Gregg Popovich and taking notes.

Utah’s starters shot a combined 2-of-19 from three, after all.

Kawhi, of course, is your man of the match:

The Pistons Get Blown Out Again

Brook Lopez shot 7-of-12 from three and scored 25 points for the Milwaukee Bucks as they ruined Detroit’s day 121-98, another huge loss for the Pistons after the pasting they took last Friday night.

The rest of the Bucks shot 3-of-15 from three. Even Mike Budenholzer is capable of using the three as a sniper rifle rather than a machine gun.

Milwaukee shot 37-of-52 (71.2 percent) on two-point shots, a percentage better than the 65.4 percent (17-of-26) they shot from the line.

Detroit, meanwhile, shot 12-of-33 from long range (36.4 percent), but their two-pointers weren’t nearly as effective; they hit just 23-of-59 (39 percent) of them.

Three is more than two. Two is more than zero. And two aind-one makes three.

Total highlights, plus Giannis Antetokounmpo throwing down a monster jam that has to be seen not to be believed:

Long-Range Snipers Go Road

The Sixers, who are just 8-11 on the road, picked up the eighth of those wins in Los Angeles, smacking the Clippers 119-113 on 46.2 percent (12-of-26) three-point shooting, another game where they didn’t have quite so many attempts but it mattered hardly at all as they put up an eFG% near .700 on the efforts.

Joel Embiid had 28 points on 9-of-19 from the field to go with 19 rebounds, Ben Simmons had 14 points on 0-of-0 from three-point land as he grabbed nine rebounds and dished eight assists, and the Clippers had four players over 20 points and a grand total of 29 points from everybody else.

This game wasn’t as close as the score, as the Clips hit just 5-of-25 from three, but a big turnover difference (20-13) gave them some extra possessions to keep it within six.

But then again, Philly had 17 offensive rebounds, so possessions just are what they are.

Keep your eye on the ball, guys:

Embiid is your man of the match:

Lightning Round!

Denver remains atop the Western Conference at 24-11 with a 115-108 win over the New York Knicks in the Mile High City.

Nikola Jokic had a huge triple-double in this one, scoring 19 points, pulling down 14 points, and dishing 15 dimes.

Denver won this one on the glass, outrebounding the Knicks 53-43 to mark the difference in a relatively even shooting night.

Put up monster triple-double, receive man of the match honors:

And finally, Sacramento is starting to slide down the table out West as they lost at home in overtime 113-108 to Portland.

The Kings are 19-18, a game and a half out of the playoffs in ninth place, but their -1.7 point differential for the season leaves them only 14th-best and projected for a bad run somewhere down the line that will spit them out of the machine that is the wide-open West.

Jusuf Nurkic was on fire for Portland, scoring 24 points on 14-of-16 from the line (that’s right, he made just five field goals, on ten tries) and snagging 23 rebounds while posting that rare 5-by-5; he had seven assists, five steals, and five blocks.

Sacramento, meanwhile, signed up for the bricklayers’ convention, shooting a horrid 44-of-115 (38.3 percent) as a team, but hey, how about the pace of play required to get 115 shots up even with benefit of overtime?

Nurk was the man of the match in this one:

How good is the NBA this year? A 5×5 got buried in the Lightning Round on the morning show. I love this game. How much? Stay tuned, because I’ve got a feature about exactly that topic coming later today. And thanks for reading!