Finals prove long shots have chance of ultimate victory

Fri Jun 3, 2016 2:56am EDT
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By Julia Love and Rory Carroll

OAKLAND (Reuters) - The NBA Finals have often been decided by the winners of key battles in areas where both teams excel and with three-pointers proving to be the weapon of choice for this year's protagonists, fans are braced for a battery of long-range bombs.

Cleveland and Golden State plotted their way to the title showdown from downtown, with the Cavaliers setting the record for most shots made from beyond the arc during the playoffs and the defending NBA champion Warriors ranking second behind them.

That pattern continued in Game One of the best-of-seven series on Thursday, when Golden State guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson helped rubber stamp a 104-89 victory with back-to-back treys in the final three minutes.

The high-risk strategy underscores a belief that the three-pointer, long regarded as a gimmick, has become an NBA staple, a shift driven in part by the lithe Warriors, who use the shot to open up the floor and speed up the pace of the game.

The three-pointer has also given teams greater flexibility as they aim to pack their rosters with as much talent as possible while keeping one eye on the salary cap.

While scouts often favored the tallest and strongest players, skilled long-range shooters did not have to fit the traditional template, said Robert Boland, director of the graduate sports management program at Ohio University.

"It's democratized the sport... you can be a 6ft-10in shooter, you can be a 5ft-10in shooter," Boland told reporters.

"It gives coaches and teams who are smart a way to manage the cap as opposed to thinking, 'How do I collect superstars?'"   Continued...

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) moves the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) during the second half in game one of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports