The Houston Rockets spent the majority of the fourth quarter Wednesday night in Los Angeles bricking three-pointers, 13 in total.
Coach Mike D’Antoni’s club ultimately missed its final 15 attempts from beyond the arc, yet still finished with 20 made three-pointers for the game in a comfortable 122-103 road victory. The all-time single-game record for made three-pointers is 24; a record that Houston co-owns after the Rockets peppered the hapless New Orleans Pelicans in mid-December.
A sizable majority of Houston’s games have seen a deluge of shots from distances often exceeding 23 feet. The Rockets have hoisted 2,514 three-point attempts, nearly 500 more than any other team in the league and the fourth most in NBA history. At this rate, they will post 3,324 for the season, easily an NBA record.
Rewind a decade: The Golden State Warriors led the league by attempting 1,966 three-pointers during 82 games.
Think the league has changed?
Houston made 912 three-pointers thus far, the third most of any team in league history, with 20 regular season games remaining. More than 45 percent of the team’s field goal attempts and 38 percent of the team’s points come from three-point territory. The Rockets are the league’s equivalent to a fireworks display.
As Ryan Anderson, who is responsible for 168 threes, told ESPN’s Calvin Watkins, “You don’t realize how many three-pointers we’re taking because it’s so natural for the way we play.”
General Manager Daryl Morey’s petri dish of a roster isn’t sacrificing efficiency, either: despite taking nearly seven more three-pointers than any other team in the league, Houston is tied for 13th in percentage (36.3). Those shots translate into an onslaught of points. The Rockets eclipsed the 100-point mark for the 48th straight game on Wednesday, a franchise record.
“It just seems like the more we (take), the better we play,” D’Antoni said this week.
Speaking of points, it’s no surprise that Golden State houses the league’s top offense, scoring 113.5 points per 100 possessions. But Houston, pouring in 112, is within range of that figure. Both rank in the top three in the Western Conference standings and there’s a reasonable-enough chance the two could meet in the postseason.
If so, Houston may have the formula to pull off an upset.
Two years ago, the Memphis Grizzlies went up 2-1 in the Western Conference semifinals against Golden State by reducing the pace to a crawl, grinding out points in the half court. Eventually, however, the Warriors blew the doors off Dave Joerger’s group to advance, hitting nearly three times as many three-pointers as the Grizzlies.
Last season, Oklahoma City’s lengthy, rebound-centric roster took the Warriors to the brink. Steve Kerr’s group ultimately advanced. In that series, however, Golden State drilled nearly twice as many three-pointers as the Thunder, and in Game 6, Klay Thompson famously showered Chesapeake Energy Arena with an NBA-record 11 made three-pointers to keep the series alive.
Proficient three-point shooting widens the margin for error. The Rockets are 1-1 against Golden State this season, scoring 103 points per 100 possessions and assisting on more than 57 percent of team baskets. Those numbers are without the services of sixth man of the year candidate Lou Williams, who was added near the trade deadline. While Golden State has had little difficulty piling up points against Houston (126 per contest), the Warriors have yet to solve the Rockets’ highflying offense, allowing 120 points per game. No team that has played Golden State more than once is averaging more.
Golden State is among the league’s best at three-point shooting, ranking third in percentage (38.2), fourth in made three-pointers (12) and fifth in attempts (31.4). However, there’s been a noticeable drop-off this season. Stephen Curry is shooting a career-worst 40 percent and Thompson’s 40.7 percent is the second worst of his career. Kerr’s group has failed to reach double digits in made three-pointers 17 times this season, or in 27.9 percent of the team’s games. Last season that happened 14 times, or in 17.1 percent of the team’s games. It certainly appears to have an effect on winning; Golden State is 8-9 when it happens this season — and Golden State lost nine total regular season games a season ago.
Three-point marksmanship is critical for Houston, clearly. The Rockets are 28-4 this season when they hit at least 15 three-pointers, and 15-15 when they don’t. It’s worth noting that Houston has hit at least 20 three-pointers in three of the team’s four games since trading for Williams.
It’s unknown how this would play out over a seven-game series. But Golden State has grown accustomed to out-sniping its opponent from three-point territory since Kerr entered the fold; in fact, the team has made more three-pointers than its opponent in every playoff series except Portland last season. If nothing else, the Rockets can at least recognize they have the firepower to hang with the juggernaut Warriors — no small feat. For entertainment value, one can only hope that the two meet up in the postseason.