SALT LAKE CITY — No one in NBA history has had a three game run like Joe Ingles just completed. Not Steph Curry, not Damian Lillard, not Ray Allen, not Reggie Miller — no one.
In the last three games, Ingles is 18-of-22 from 3-point range. That's just south of 82%, and according to Jazz broadcast statistician Tyson Ewing, that's the best 3-point percentage through a 3-game stretch in league history (with a minimum of 20 total 3s).
It's been a historic three games, but Ingles' hot hand goes back even further. He's hit 60% of attempted 3s in the last 12 games, 64% in March and 66% over the last five contests. Ingles has always been one of the league's top shooters, but those kinds of numbers beg the question: What is gotten into Joe?
"I told you guys in the summer my shot felt good, you probably didn't believe me at the start because I bricked a few," Ingles said.
To be fair, he bricked more than a few.
Through six games, Ingles shot just 31% from 3 — well below his career average of 41.5%. But while some may have worried about a sharp decline, Ingles knew better.
The COVID-19 pandemic had stolen his chance to get back to his home in Australia. He stayed in Utah after the season was postponed prior to the Orlando bubble, and for the entire offseason once the playoffs ended. But that came with an extra perk — at least from a basketball standpoint: Instead of having a few weeks or months off and being away from the game, Ingles found himself at the practice facility just about every day shooting with Jazz assistant Bryan Bailey.
"It was the first time in a long time I hadn't traveled and gone back to Melbourne and spent time — it's always obviously good to go home but it's a bit harder to find a gym," Ingles said.
Bailey and Ingles broke down clips of times he shot the ball well and times he didn't to discover the reasons behind the performances. They went over where Ingles would be able to get looks in Utah's revamped offense. Oh, and Bailey got a heavy workout, too.
For much of the offseason, due to COVID-19 restrictions, only one-on-one sessions were allowed. That meant Bailey had to rebound the ball, sprint back out to the 3-point line, pass it to Ingles, and then go rebound it again. And then repeat that over and over. Ingles got to work on his shot; Bailey got to work on his cardio.
"It was probably bad for him because we were only allowed one-on-one, so he had to rebound every shot by himself," Ingles said. "We spent a lot of time there. So I've got to give him a bit of credit because of the time away from his family and that he spent with me in the summer. Obviously for my benefit; it's not really for his benefit, it's for me. I felt good coming in, and as the year's gone on, finding where I can be aggressive."
It was all part of the process to best use Ingles' elite shooting ability; to get him to take out the hesitancy he sometimes had and to get him hunting his own 3s a bit more.
The hot streak — and really the whole season (Ingles has shot well over 50% from 3 after that slow start) — has come as a result from all that offseason work. But even that was just a continuation of a process that began long ago.
Ingles played in four different countries and was waived by the Los Angeles Clippers before landing in Utah. He's always been a good shooter, but he was different. Ingles' "Slow Mo" moniker has been well-earned. He's not the fastest guy on the court — he's been lovingly compared to a YMCA player and barber by NBA coaches — and his shot seemed to follow his speed. Slow guy, slow release.
Playing against athletes in the Euroleague and the NBL in Australia, Ingles said he had time to "bring the ball down to my shins and then go back up and shoot it." He found out quickly that wasn't going to cut it in the NBA.
"A 6-foot-8 athletic guy was going to smack it into Row Zed by the time I shot," Ingles said. "It's been a bit of a kind of evolution."
All those times that Ingles passed up on seemingly open 3s? It could have simply been the case of him not believing he had enough time to actually shoot. This season, you've seen Ingles catch the ball above his head and fire it without ever bringing it down much more often.
"I think it was a few years ago, probably, the first time I started to do it, I probably wasn't fully confident in it," Ingles said.
After working on it endlessly over the last year, he's not afraid to let it fly; and it's been going in a lot. Will it continue? If it doesn't, Ingles might just blame some reporters for asking about it.
"Not that I'm not trying to get guys involved anymore, but if I've got an opportunity to shoot it, just being ready to shoot it, and to shoot it," Ingles said. "Obviously still trying to get guys involved, so yeah, not much, I guess, changed. I just felt good coming in and you probably just jinxed the hell out of me, so we'll see what happens now."