One single number defines the Houston Rockets disappointing 121-115 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night and hangs over today's contest against the Golden State Warriors, the Rockets three point shooting.
The Rockets coughed up a 19 point lead to the Hawks while shooting 55% from the three point line, 11-20 3PTM-A.This is only the second time the Rockets have lost while shooting better than 50% from three since acquiring James Harden.
In last year's Western Conference Finals the Rockets won a single game against the Golden State Warriors. In that contest, they shot 53.1% from three.
Shooting 50% from three is a near automatic benchmark for a Rockets win. The last time the Rockets dropped a contest while spitting fire from deep was three years ago in a December 2012 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
You don't need to breakout the cork board, thumb tacks and yarn to make sense of the basic plot here. The Rockets have hoisted a historic number of three pointers since adopting the "Moreyball" mentality. They've done so without shooters like Stef Curry or Kyle Korver and traditionally shot an average rate from the three point line. Right now the boys in red and yellow are tied for 19th in the league for three point shooting percentage at 34.6%.
When the Rockets get hot from three, they win.
Since acquiring James Harden the Houston Rockets are 20-2 when shooting 50% or better from the three point line. See for yourself:
*This includes playoff games. 5/25/2015 was the Rockets sole win against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals
Since acquiring James Harden the Houston Rockets are 39-6 when they shoot better than 45% from three. Check the math on contests where the Rockets shoot between 49.9% and 45% here:
*This includes playoff games and this chart only reflects the 19-4 record the Rockets have while shooting between .450 and .499.
Despite the 20-2 record when shooting 50% from three in the Harden era there's a screaming subplot to the Hawks loss: Shooting the lights out isn't enough for Rocket wins anymore because the team's defense is so bad.