HOUSTON – It was a dreadful performance, just dreadful, and yet after it was over, the Houston Rockets were smiling.
A 100-95 victory over New Orleans meant the Rockets kept their position as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and perhaps ended the Pelicans’ chances of reaching the postseason.
In the process, the Rockets made just 3 of 34 shots from 3-point range. Yes, the Rockets set an NBA record by making just 8.8 percent of their 3-point attempts.
This from a team that set the NBA single-season record for 3s last season.
The 31 misses tied for the most in a victory in the past 30 years. It’s happened just five times in league history, with Golden State doing it twice last season.
Dreadful, just dreadful.
“We were trying to figure it out if [3-of-34] is the record in a win,” said a smiling J.B. Bickerstaff, the Rockets' interim coach, who was just happy to snag a victory. “There were open shots, too. We had a ton of open looks. Those are shots we work on everyday, and to be able to win a game when you shoot eight percent from the 3-point line and turn it over 21 times. There is something we must have done right.”
The Rockets missed their first 15 3-point shots and then made two of their next three. Another poor run, 15 consecutive misses, ended when Patrick Beverley knocked down a 3 with 51 seconds remaining to give Houston a 97-95 lead.
Beverley’s 3 was set up by James Harden bringing the ball up the floor and finding his man 23 feet out when the Pelicans clogged the paint to try to stop The Beard from driving.
“I saw Anthony Davis closing out on him for the block and Anthony Davis closed out on me again,” said Beverley, who missed 4-of-6 from long range. “I just tried to get it up and it went in. You got to give James credit. Defenders always watching him and he made an easy pass play.”
The Rockets went 10-for-37 on uncontested shots, with Jason Terry missing four uncontested jumpers, Corey Brewer missing 4-of-5 when alone and Trevor Ariza misfiring on 6-of-8 such shots. Beverley said he has never seen Terry miss that many open looks in his career.
Houston has Harden to save itself. He scored a game-high 39 points in another heavy-minutes night (40) in which he added 12 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. He also committed eight turnovers, most on drives to the basket and on passes, as the Pelicans tried to take him out of the game with double-teams and physical play near the basket.
Harden made 7 of 16 contested shots and was the lone Rockets player to have a nice evening making uncontested shots, going 4-of-8. And with the 3-point shot failing, the Rockets did make 70.2 percent of their 2-point field goal tries, the fourth-best mark this season.
Four other NBA teams won Wednesday night while shooting less than 30 percent from 3-point range. So it can’t be all bad.
“It really wasn’t frustrating. I think ultimately we played extremely hard,” Harden said. “Three-for-34, that’s rarely going to happen -- if we knock down 10 of those 3s, it’s a different ballgame. We just got to continue to fight through it and grind the game out.”