Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has always constructed his teams with the knowledge that the three-pointer holds mathematical supremacy over twos, and the 2016-17 version of the Rockets is his masterpiece. With first-year head coach Mike D’Antoni promoting a faster pace and newcomers like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson next to holdovers such as James Harden, the Rockets have pushed the three-pointer past its historical limits and into a new era. Most NBA teams now understand why it’s useful to structure an offense around the perimeter, but only the Rockets take it to these extremes.
So it’s not totally surprising that the Rockets are rewriting the record books when it comes to team three-pointers. They set a new record for three-pointers made (24, later matched by the Denver Nuggets) and attempted (61) back in mid-December and already had attempted 300 more threes than the previous season record (their own, from 2014-15) entering Thursday night’s game at the Portland Trail Blazers. The only major team record they hadn’t claimed was for three-point makes in a season.
As you can probably guess, they claimed that one on Thursday. With 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter, James Harden made the team’s third triple of the night for 1,078 on the season, which breaks the Golden State Warriors’ previous record from 2015-16. Take a look at the historic shot here:
The Rockets’ record has been a team effort. Eight players have made at least 20 threes for Houston this season, and five currently average more than two threes per game. Harden and Gordon already have more than 225 each, and both Anderson and Trevor Ariza have a chance to join them in the 200 club before the season is done. For that matter, point guard Patrick Beverley needs just one more three to hit triple digits. (Lou Williams already has more than 100 on the season, as well, but he did most of that damage with the Los Angeles Lakers.)
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 31, 2017
By contrast, last season’s Warriors had only three players with 100 three-pointers. Stephen Curry (402) and Klay Thompson (276) just happened to combine for about 20 more than the Rockets’ top three shooters.
Of course, none of this is new territory for D’Antoni. His teams have set this record three times in his career:
It's the third time a MDA coached team set the NBA record for 3FGM made in a season. The Suns did it with him in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) March 31, 2017
Unfortunately for the Rockets, the threes came few and far between on Thursday. They shot 8-of-34 from beyond the arc and lost 117-107. The good news is they’re still on track to finish third in the West.
The biggest question now is if the Rockets’ approach becomes a new norm. It’s a safe bet that Houston will pursue three-pointers for the foreseeable future, but there could be a point at which outside shots become so common that either forcing the issue loses its novelty or the league decides it’s time to move the line back a foot or five.
Regardless of what the future holds, the 2016-17 Rockets’ place in league history seems secure. Even if the future holds even more three-point shots, they’ll live on as one of the sides that helped start a revolution.
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