The Houston Rockets missed a historical amount of three-pointers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. According to Chris Herring of FiveThiryEight’s calculations, the odds of missing 27 consecutive three-pointers are one in 72,000. And while each shot is its own separate event, all those shots fell into the context of Game 7.
Basketball isn’t played inside the matrix. The mental aspect of shooting a basketball, performing under the pressure of the playoffs–especially Game 7–is stressful. With each consecutive miss, the collective team distress increases exponentially.
Too often a poor performance like this can be chalked up to variance. But when you factor in the human condition and things like fatigue from playing a six and seven-man rotation, the Rockets’ shooting woes look less like an outlier and more like an expected outcome.
Early on, the Rockets mitigated their shooting struggles by managing what was in their control, crashing the glass for offensive rebounds and finding Clint Capela on dives and lobs. By focusing on what you can control, you’re better prepared to account for what you can’t, like the officiating.
The referees missed several calls on James Harden three-point attempts, fueling the frustrations of the team and home crowd alike. Open 3-pointers from quality shooters ricocheted violently off the rim or backboard. All season long, the Rockets walked the fine line between quick 3-pointers before the defense could set, and quick 3-pointers before their shooters could set.
Was this a one-in-72,000 event, or the result of fatigue and stress bleeding into Houston’s shots? Hopefully we can find out next year with a healthy Chris Paul included.