Last night I checked in on the Houston game early. The Lakers had brought their Kryptonite to handle James Harden. Kobe Bryant wasn’t playing fantastic, but he was playing decent and the rest of the Lakers were shooting very well. I checked out knowing I’d have to hear certain analysts bring up Harden vs. Kobe later. I was shocked to find out that the Rockets in fact won! I was more shocked to see the numbers.
The Rockets shot 37.6% from the field. And no, they didn’t get an easy out with three point shooting, as they shot an abysmal 20.6% from behind the arc! And it’s hard to say stellar defense won the day, as they gave up 105 points in regulation! I went to Twitter and pondered if this had happened before. Of course, an astute fan with the aid of basketball-reference has the answer
— Mart (@MartJ42) December 5, 2012
Mart is a little nicer than my requirements going with 38% from the field. I’m ok with it as otherwise our list would only be two games.
To recap, here are our instances of teams that managed to win playing that poorly.
|2012-12-04||Houston Rockets||Los Angeles Lakers||107 – 105|
|1994-03-22||New Jersey Nets||Los Angeles Clippers||105 – 102|
|1991-02-22||Los Angeles Clippers||San Antonio Spurs||107 – 101|
We don’t have full game logs for the three point era sadly (Basketball-Reference goes back to the 1984-1985 season) but in almost the full history, we see this kind of ugly win is pretty rare. I decided to do a little digging to explain each win.
How the heck did Houston Win??
It sure as heck wasn’t defense. The simple answer is Houston was able to keep trying again despite shooting poorly and this came in two areas: turnovers and offensive rebounds. The Lakers turned the ball over 18 times to Houston’s 10. It should also be noticed many of these came off of sloppy play by the Lakers as the Rockets only got 7 steals. What’s more, while the rebound totals were close, the Rockets got 21 offensive rebounds to the Lakers 14. Add it up and the Rockets got an extra 15 possessions on just those two factors. And as we see, the Rockets got 101 shots to the Lakers 82. And that’s how you win despite missing the broad side of the barn repeatedly.
How the heck did New Jersey Win??
Rebounds mattered again but in this case it wasn’t turnovers, it was free throws that helped seal the deal. The Nets crushed the Clippers on rebounds, getting 63 to the Clippers 42. The Nets had almost as many offensive boards (27) as the Clippers had defensive (29). Three of the Nets starters has 10+ boards (P.J. Brown, Derrick Coleman, Benoit Benjamin) with Brown and Coleman pulling down 16. The top rebounder on the Clipps (Dominique Wilkins) had 8 boards, which was as many boards as the top rebounder off the Nets bench (Armen Gilliam). Tack on that the Nets got 44 free throws to the Clipps 23 and you have a narrow win with a lack of shooting.
How the heck did the Clippers Win??
Rebounds turn out not to be the primary culprit here. While the Clippers did out-rebound the Spurs by 4, they won in a few other ways. First, the Spurs weren’t shooting so hot either. The Spurs went 39.8% from the field and were 25.0% from behind the arc. Next, the Spurs had a turnover problem giving the ball up 17 times to Clippers 11. Finally the Clippers crushed the Spurs on free throws. The Spurs had 33 free throw attempts, while the Clippers managed 52! Despite shooting horrendously from the lin (63.5%) the Clippers still managed to get a better offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) than the Spurs, in large part due to free throw shooting.
Shooting matters a lot in basketball. In fact, when we examine the stat that has the biggest impact on games, shooting efficiency is pretty much the biggest. Of course, as we mentioned yesterday, there are other things that go into winning games. While rare, it is possible for teams to completely forgo scoring and focus on the “little things” and still pull out wins, albeit ugly ones.