FiveThirtyEight shows the Rockets' historic shooting collapse was a 1-in-72,000 anomaly

  • The Houston Rockets lost to the Golden State Warriors, 101-92, in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, missing out on a shot at the NBA Championship.
  • Houston's strategy of outshooting opponents backfired spectacularly at the worst possible time, with the Rockets going an abysmal 7-for-44 from beyond the arc during the game, including a stretch of 27 consecutive misses.
  • FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers on the unbelievable cold streak and concluded that it was a 1-in-72,000 chance occurrence that cost the Rockets their season.
     

The Houston Rockets fell apart on Monday night, losing to the Golden State Warriors 101-92 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.

The win was earned by the Warriors, who once again relied on an overwhelming performance in the third quarter to erase a first-half deficit and take a lead that they would never give up, but the game still felt as though it was the Rockets who beat themselves.

Houston's strategy all year had been to outpace and outshoot their opponents with the help of a barrage of three-pointers. But the style of play that had helped them to the best record in the NBA backfired spectacularly at the worst possible moment, with the team going 7-for-44 from beyond the arc in Game 7, including an unbelievable stretch of missing 27 straight shots from distance.

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The best photos from the Rockets-Warriors Western Conference Finals
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 28: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors goes up against Trevor Ariza #1 and PJ Tucker #4 of the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter of Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 28, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 28: PJ Tucker #4 of the Houston Rockets drives against Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter of Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 28, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 28: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts as James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on in the third quarter of Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 28, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
May 28, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors center Jordan Bell (2) reacts after a score against the Houston Rockets during the second half of game seven of the Western conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 24: Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets reacts against the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter of Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 24, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 24: Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets steals from Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors late in the fourth quater of Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 24, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 24: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors reacts late in the fourth quarter of Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on May 24, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 24: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors goes up against Chris Paul #3 and Trevor Ariza #1 of the Houston Rockets in the third quarter of Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 24, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 20: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors defends James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets during Game Three of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 20, 2018 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
May 20, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard Gerald Green (14) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia (27) during the second half in game three of the Western conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Rockets 126-85. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
May 20, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) controls there ball as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) falls during the second quarter in game three of the Western conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
May 20, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets in game three of the Western conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
May 20, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) falls into the fans behind Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) during the second quarter in game three of the Western conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 14: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors drives to the basket in the second half against Chris Paul #3 and PJ Tucker #4 of the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 14: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after being called for a foul in the second quarter on Trevor Ariza #1 of the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 14: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on in the first half against the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 14: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors reacts with Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 14: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets dunks in the first half against the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 14: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors looks on late in the game against the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 14: Trevor Ariza #1 of the Houston Rockets sits on the court after committing a foul in the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 14: Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors dunks the ball against the Houston Rockets during Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 14, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 16: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors dunks against Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets in the second half of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 16: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets shoots against the Golden State Warriors in the second half of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 16: Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors goes to the basket against the Houston Rockets during Game Two of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 16, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The cold streak was bizarre to anyone who had watched the Rockets drain shots all season, but Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers to conclude that the stretch of misses was even more unbelievable that one might've imagined.

Here's the breakdown:

FiveThirtyEight leaned on quantified Shot Probability (qSP) data — used to weigh the likelihood of a shot going in depending on who’s taking it, how close the nearest defender is to the shot, and how quickly that player is closing out — from Second Spectrum and NBA Advanced Stats, which use high-level cameras to track on-court movement.

By using that metric — and looking at the probability of each individual shot’s chance of going down, from Harden’s 33 percent hoist that began the drought to the 31.6 percent chance he had on the one to end it — we can conclude that the Rockets embarked on an approximately 1-in-72,000 cold spell from deep at the worst possible time, with a trip to the Finals on the line.

A 1-in-72,000 occurrence and it meant the end of the Rockets season.

Making the matter all the more heartbreaking is the fact that Houston was able to keep the game as close as they did despite their horrific effort from beyond the arc. With a final score of 101-92, just two or three of those shots going down could've swung the entire game.

The Rockets didn't need to be lights out shooters to win on Monday — they only needed to avoid their worst shooting performance of the season.

Instead, they fell to a statistical anomaly.

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