Through three quarters of Friday’s game with the Utah Jazz, the Toronto Raptors had made four three-pointers. Jonas Valanciunas was responsible for half of them. There’s a couple ways to look at that. Sure, the Raptors were shooting atrociously from distance, missing 16 of the 20 three-pointers they’d attempted. And, yes, they finished the night shooting 7-of-27 from range, on one of the worst shooting nights the team’s had all season. That’s not what you want. It’s why they lost, 97-93. The Raptors ran into an underrated Jazz defence that played hard on the road and contested everything; several very makeable attempts caught just a little bit too much rim; Toronto missed five times from the charity stripe. Or, as Raptors head coach Dwane Casey put it: “we didn’t shoot the ball worth a crap.” But three-point shooting — all shooting, really — is like taking the TTC: there’s good days and bad. And considering the Raptors are averaging more than 11 three-pointers made per game (fifth in the East) and shooting at a 35.1 per cent clip from range on the season (they shot 26 per cent Friday) this particular poor shooting night probably isn’t worth getting too worked up about. If it becomes two, three or four in a row, then you can raise the concern. But Valanciunas having a good night from range? Hitting two three-pointers in a game for the first time in his career? Upping his three-point rate to 42 per cent (10-of-24) on the season? Now that’s something. “I put a lot of work in, you know? I put in a lot of work. And that pays off,” Valanciunas said. “I’m shooting the ball. You know, you cannot be selfish with that. You’ve just got to find the spacing. That’s what I’m trying to do.” Don’t forget, Valanciunas hit exactly one three-pointer in his first five seasons of NBA basketball. Even though he’s only attempted a couple dozen this season, his success with the shot is still quite noteworthy. He attempted only four over the first 363 games of his career. Even though the scale is small, this is a dramatic increase.
Valanciunas slowly evolving into modern-day NBA centre
Sportsnet | Jan 27