Back in 2010, a year after reaching the Finals in coach Stan Van Gundy’s second year in Orlando, the Magic set an NBA record by attempting a whopping 2,241 3-point shots, which worked out to 27.3 per game. They made 37.5 percent of those shots, a healthy percentage. They were also a pretty good team when it came to 2-point shots, making 52.1 percent of those. The Magic averaged 102.8 points per game, ranked fourth in the NBA in offensive efficiency, and rode Van Gundy’s style of play to the Eastern Conference finals.

A year later, the Magic were struggling early in the year and attempted to revamp the roster with trades for Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu. Richardson and Turkoglu helped somewhat, but Arenas shot just 27.5 percent on 3s Orlando on 3s, and the team’s offense—which was struggling even before the trades—tumbled, landing at 14th in the league in efficiency. Orlando was knocked from the playoffs in the first round.

Van Gundy then had to go before the media and defend his offense—the same offense that had worked so well the previous two years. “If we take 23 threes and we make 11 or 12, or even eight or nine, the media writes about how good your ball movement was,” Van Gundy said. “They shared the ball, their ball movement was great. If you get those exact same shots and go 5-for-23, they say you’re settling too much. You’re going to deal with that. Bottom line is, if you lose, they’re going to get you. And you can’t argue with it and I don’t mind because it’s a results-oriented league. It’s a bottom-line business. We’ll come back and if we have the same roster, we’ll be close to leading the league in 3s again.”

The reason? “The numbers think that’s a better shot than the mid-range,” Van Gundy said.

Van Gundy’s floor-spreading offense used to be an outlier, inspired largely by the desire to create space inside for Dwight Howard, but the league is catching up with his way of thinking. The numbers he mentioned are pretty simple. Suppose the Magic shoot nothing but 3-pointers for an entire game—say 80 total field-goal attempts. They’ll make 37.5 percent of those, or 30. Make 30 3-pointers and you get 90 points. If they attempt 80 2-point shots, and make 52.1 percent of them, that’s 41.7 shots made. They’ll score about 83 points per game that way. That’s an oversimplified look at how to run an offense, of course, but the math is undeniable. It pays to shoot 3s.

This year, the average NBA team took 19.9 3-point shots per game, a record number, easily topping last year’s 18.4 3-pointers per game, which was a record at the time. This isn’t surprising—the number of 3-point attempts in the league has been on a pretty steady rise going back 25 years. In 2006, the average team took four fewer 3s than today, just 15.9 per game. Two years before that, it was 14.9 per game. There was a bump in 3s in the late 1990s, but in the 1993-’94 season, the number was only 9.9 per game. Go all the way back 25 years, and 3-pointers were a rarity, with teams attempting 6.5 per game.

“That’s one of the biggest changes since when I played,” former Hawks great Dominique Wilkins said. “We weren’t thinking a lot about the 3-point shot in the ‘80s. You might have some guys on your team who could make them, but it was not a big part of your game if you were an All-Star type player. The only time you were shooting 3s if you were down late and needed to score fast. We always wanted to go inside, inside, inside. The 3-pointer now, it is a weapon every team needs to have. Everyone counts on it.”

A perfect example is this year’s Rockets, who attempted 2,369 3-pointers, which broke the Orlando mark, but was topped by the 2,371 3s the Knicks attempted this year, the new NBA record. Houston is coached by Hall of Famer Kevin McHale, a big man of the old school, for whom perimeter shooting was long considered a waste of effort. But with the game’s evolution, McHale now coaches his team to chuck 3s with great frequency. When those shots fall, the Rockets tend to win and when they don’t, they lose—Houston shot 39.1 percent from the 3-point line in wins, and 33.4 percent in losses.