How Do You Lose When You Make 17 Threes? Ask The Rockets.


In each of the past two seasons, the Houston Rockets have shattered previously held records for 3-pointers made and attempted. They took the three to previously unseen heights by connecting on 1,256 of 3,470 attempts during the 2017-18 season, then surpassed both of those marks by making 1,323 of 3,721 of their shots from beyond the arc this year.
Given that they’ve attempted so many more threes than any other team, it should come as no surprise that the Rockets have also had more single-game 3-point explosions than any other team. The Rockets have made at least 15 treys an incredible 113 times in the past two seasons,6 including Tuesday night against the Warriors, when they made 17. The next-closest team is the Brooklyn Nets, who have nailed 15-plus triples just 51 times in the last two years.
Connecting on at least 15 shots from beyond the arc guarantees you at least 45 points, so it’s not surprising that the Rockets’ record when hitting all those treys was incredibly good heading into last night’s game. The Rockets were 89-23 in such games prior to their Game 2 loss — good for a 0.795 winning percentage, or the equivalent of a 65-win season.
So then how does a team to manage to lose when hitting 17 3-pointers? The quick and easy answer: by turning the ball over 18 times.
The Rockets gave the ball away on each of their first three possessions of the game, six of their first 10, and a total of nine times in the first quarter alone. With those blunders, they dug themselves a 14-point hole less than eight minutes into the game. Houston cleaned things up a bit during the final three periods, but the early struggles gave the Rockets a turnover rate north of 16 percent — far worse than their seasonlong average of about 12 percent, which ranked ninth in the NBA.
Usually, the Rockets are able to overcome error-filled performances like this one.7 Before dropping Game 2 to the Warriors, James Harden and company were 19-12 over the past two seasons in games in which their turnover rate was at least 15 percent. Turning the ball over 15-plus percent of the time against the Warriors, though, is a different story altogether. Golden State is practically unbeatable when its opponent coughs up as many possessions as the Rockets did in Game 2.
Since acquiring Kevin Durant before the 2016-17 season, the Warriors had racked up a 41-6 record8 when forcing a turnover on at least 15 percent of their opponent’s possessions. After Tuesday’s win, they’re now 3-0 when forcing the Rockets into that many errors — with the prior two victories coming in Game 3 and Game 6 of last year’s Western Conference finals.
The Rockets compounded their turnover problems by allowing a ton of offensive rebounds. With Draymond Green (five) and Andre Iguodala (four) leading the way, Golden State snared the board off one of its own misses 18 times during Game 2. That 36.7 percent offensive rebound rate made this both the Warriors’ fifth-best offensive rebounding game of the Durant era and Houston’s sixth-worst defensive rebounding game this season.
In the NBA, if you have enough talent and that talent is harnessed in the right way, you can overcome all kinds of deficits. You can shoot your way to victory even when you’re irresponsible with the ball and even when you let your opponent run wild on the offensive glass. Sometimes you can even overcome the odds and win when you do both of those things. Just, not against the Warriors.

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