Cavs outside shooting in the playoffs is blistering, and yet sustainable –

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are quickly becoming the greatest 3-point shooting team in NBA history. A game after setting the NBA record for 3-pointers in a game with 25 makes, the Cavs once again torched the Atlanta Hawks defense in the 121-108 victory to go up 3-0 in the series. This time, there weren’t any accusations or insinuations of running the score up against the Hawks.

All of their 21 3-pointers were needed to complete the comeback from 11 down and dominate the fourth quarter 36-17. After seven games in the playoffs, in which the Cavs have won all seven games with five of them coming by double digits, Cleveland has made 118 3-pointers on an absurd 46.6 percent from 3-point range. There are 46 teams in NBA history to hit more than 118 3-pointers in the playoffs. That sounds like a big number until you consider the fact that we’re just seven games into the Cavs’ postseason and not even four dozen teams in history have beaten this volume of makes.

In this series, the Cavs are shredding the Hawks from the 3-point line. This stat from Associated Press reporter Tim Reynolds shows the 3-point shot has yielded more points against Atlanta’s defense than shots inside the arc.

Extrapolate that out for the entire playoffs so far and the Cavs have 312 points on 2-point shots and 354 points on 3-pointers. So the question becomes: Just how sustainable this kind of shooting can be for them?

The Cavs are on a historic pace. (Getty Images)

Only three teams in NBA history have shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range on at least 250 attempts over the course of a postseason. The 2004-05 Phoenix Suns have the highest accuracy with 43.6 percent on 296 attempts over 15 games. The 2011-12 San Antonio Spurs are second with 41.6 percent on 317 attempts in 14 games. The 2014 champion Spurs hit 40.9 percent from deep on 496 attempts over 23 games.

Depending on how quick the rest of the playoffs are for the Cavs, they’ll likely play somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 games in this postseason, give or take a game. They’re currently attempting 36 3-pointers per game. They’re hitting nearly 17 3-pointers per game. That puts them on pace for 340 made 3’s, which would beat the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors record by 100 made 3-pointers.

Granted, it’s tough to assume the Cavs can keep up this kind of pace in the later rounds against the Miami Heat/Toronto Raptors and then the Golden State Warriors/San Antonio Spurs/Oklahoma City Thunder (that’s a lot of possibilities). But the way the Cavs are creating these 3-pointers is a stellar level of offensive execution. So far in the playoffs, 27.2 3-point attempts per game are classified as open (4-6 feet of room between shooter and defender) or wide-open (6 feet or more of space).

This is a result of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving collapsing the defense. It’s caused the Detroit Pistons to scramble and the Atlanta Hawks to struggle with their rotations. For the Hawks, this is understandable despite them posting the second best defensive rating in the NBA this season. Atlanta was about league average in 3-point rate (percentage of attempts from beyond the arc) allowed and opponents shot above league average from the corner spots against the Hawks.

The Hawks giving up quality 3-point looks to a team like the Cavs isn’t a shocking development. However, what the Cavs were able to do against the Pistons was surprising. Stan Van Gundy’s team had the lowest 3-point rate allowed. They gave up a high percentage from the corners (40 percent) but allowed the fewest corner 3-point attempts. So what the Cavs have forced against their two opponents is still pretty impressive.

In the next round, the Raptors and Heat would provide much different likelihoods of allowing 3-pointers. Miami allowed the third lowest 3-point rate this season. Toronto was league average in giving up 3-point attempts. The Heat allowed the 12th lowest 3-point accuracy in the NBA. The Raptors were the second worst defense in preventing 3-pointers made. The Cavs could carve out these looks against the Heat. They’re likely to light up the Raptors should Dwane Casey’s team move on to the conference finals.

At that point — assuming they make it to the NBA Finals — you have to wonder if they’ll be in such a rhythm shooting the ball from downtown that it may not matter whom their opponents are. The Warriors and Spurs were the two best teams in the NBA at preventing 3-point accuracy. The Thunder, Warriors, and Spurs all finished in the bottom eight in 3-point rate allowed. So the defense to prevent 3-point shooting would be present, but the way the Cavs are clicking may at least turn those defenses into something more destructible.

Irving is attempting 7.0 3-pointers per game and making an absurd 55.1 percent from deep so far. Love is attempting 6.9 per game and hitting 41.7 percent of them. J.R. Smith is playing like a mixologist at a high-end New York club combined the accuracy of Ray Allen with the shooting conscience of Stephen Curry, as he knocks down 52.6 percent of his 8.0 attempts from deep per game during the postseason.

The Cavs are demolishing good defenses and they’re hitting at a historic volume and accuracy. Is it sustainable? It doesn’t appear to be possible, but their shooting isn’t slowing down any time soon. We may be heading to a Warriors’ level of outside shooting as the Cavs try to finally come through on a title push. It may take every single one of these 3-pointers to pull off such a feat.

Cavs outside shooting in the playoffs is blistering, and yet sustainable –