In the W.N.B.A., 3-Pointers Are a Newfound Weapon

So she stayed home a bit more in the off-season, and spent those hours on the 3-pointer, a shot she had made twice in 9,905 minutes of W.N.B.A. action, or roughly once every 82.5 hours on court.

Which is to say that what happened in her first month this season was unexpected. Brunson took 14 3s and netted eight. Brunson ranked third on the team in the regular season with 23 3-pointers, while the Lynx have jumped to eighth (16.1 a game) in attempts in 2017 from 11th (11.9 a game) a season ago. At 35, Brunson increased her career 3-point total by 1,150 percent.

As the W.N.B.A. playoffs start on Wednesday, the 3-point shot has become a more important part of the teams’ arsenals.

Ruthie Bolton hoisted a league-leading 192 3-pointers for the Sacramento Monarchs in the W.N.B.A.’s inaugural 1997 season.

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Ruthie Bolton, right, set the league 3-point attempt record in 1997.

Credit
Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Two players — Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi and Washington’s Kristi Toliver — eclipsed Bolton’s mark with two weeks remaining in the 2017 regular season. In August, the Dallas Wings tied the league record with 16 3-pointers in a win over the Seattle Storm. Eight teams this season tried at least 16 3-pointers a game, up three from last season. Two decades ago, when Bolton set her record, one team attained that figure.

“These players are going to knock it out of the park,” said Katie Smith, an associate head coach with the New York Liberty who ranks second on the league’s all-time 3-point list. “The numbers they’re putting up for their whole careers — it’s going to be amazing.”

When the league moved the line back before the 2013 season to its current distance of 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches, from 20 feet, 6 1/4 inches, it caused a nearly 20 percent decrease in attempts. “It was just becoming an easier shot,” Smith said of the impetus for the change. “When they moved it, it put some people a little out of range.”

However, each season since 2014, teams have taken 3s more frequently. Over the last four seasons, attempts have risen 23 percent, while in the N.B.A. they have jumped 34 percent.

“You look at teams like the Warriors and how beautiful their games are. They all shoot. They all pass,” Bolton said. “Over all, what we want is a beautiful league. We want a league that’s exciting to…

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