As soon as LeBron James zipped a pass to Shane Battier in the corner for a 3-pointer Thursday, James turned around and put three fingers in the air.
There was no need to look, James knew it was going in. And it did.
That’s the type of confidence the Miami Heat now have in their ability to shoot from long range.
The Heat are making 40.6 percent of their shots from behind the arc this season, which is second best in the NBA behind the Boston Celtics through Thursday’s games.
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“What the 3-point shot does is it keeps people honest,” Battier said.
“It affords our three best players to drive in the lanes. When we’re hitting shots, the defense respects us more and it opens up lanes.”
But during Miami’s five-game road trip, the 3-point shot wasn’t going down.
The Heat made just 31.4 percent of their shots from behind the arc during, which included a three-game losing streak.
However, they have since found the touch from out there.
During the Heat’s two-game winning streak, they have hit shots from long range at a 56.9 percent clip, making 25 out of their 44 attempts.
That efficient number is due to an increased comfort level with each other and a healthy Mike Miller, who returned to the court Tuesday and has made seven 3-pointers in two games.
“We’re becoming comfortable with each other, and now our penetrators know where we are,” forward James Jones said.
“They’re finding us in the corners, and finding us for good clean looks.”
With players like Dwyane Wade and James that can get to the rim with ease, being able to spread the floor with good outside shooters is important for the Heat.
That’s the reason Miami went after Battier in the offseason and kept Miller and Jones.
“It’s one those things where you can never have too many shooters when you have so many dynamic players,” Jones said.
“We have a good bunch of shooters, guys that are highly efficient and some of the best in the game, and it helps us.”
And with Wade still sidelined by a sprained right ankle, it gives coach Erik Spoelstra an opportunity to allow Battier, Jones and Miller to play, sometimes together.
In the five games Wade has missed this season, Miami has made an average of 9.2 shots from beyond the arc in each of them.
But when Wade does return to the court, it would seem that Spoelstra will be forced to take one of his shooters out of the normal rotation.
“Obviously, getting us on the court is going to be another thing,” Miller said. “But that’s up to coach, and he’ll do a good job with that.
“Three-point shooting can be a difference in every game you play in. If we can make it at a high tilt, we’ll be a lot better.”
Even with Battier, Jones and Miller, guard Mario Chalmers has been the team’s best 3-point shooter this season.
He leads the Heat with 29 3-pointers, while making 45.3 percent of them.
Still, with Wade and James getting all of the attention on and off the court, the Heat know that their recent binge from beyond the arc must become more than just a short trend.
“It will continue to be a weapon for us,” said Spoelstra after Miami’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
“We did get some opportunities at the rim, but if at the same time they’re offering up open threes, we have the personnel that can make you pay for that.”