The 11 Lowest-Scoring Teams in an NBA Game
On the day before Thanksgiving, the Golden State Warriors had a lot to be thankful for. Specifically, their 149-point effort against the Los Angeles Lakers — who were unfortunate enough to have to face the Warriors again just two nights later. It was the most points scored in an NBA game that didn’t go to overtime since 1993, when the Seattle Supersonics beat the Philadelphia 76ers by an embarrassing score of 149-93.
But almost as frequent as teams going off for crazy amounts of points are teams getting held to insanely low point-totals. Here are the 11 lowest-scoring teams in an NBA game since the invention of the shot clock.
Milwaukee Bucks, 56 points
On March 13, 2011, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks met up to play at the TD Garden in Boston. In the first quarter, the stout Celtics defense held the Bucks to just nine total points, taking a 20-9 lead that they’d never look back from. The most points Milwaukee would score in any quarter was 18, as they shot 31.4% from the field for the game and were led in scoring by the lesser-known Earl Barron. He scored 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 10 minutes of play, as the Bucks lost the game 87-56.
Orlando Magic, 56 points
Weirdly enough, the Orlando Magic would head into Boston to face the Celtics less than a calendar year later on January 23, 2012. The game was relatively close early on, with the Celtics holding a 22-20 lead after the first quarter and a 46-36 lead at halftime. But the Magic would score just 20 points in the second half, seeing the Celtics run away with — now this is spooky — an 87-56 victory, the same exact score they’d beaten the Bucks by a year earlier. Dwight Howard scored 18 of the Magic’s 56 points.
Toronto Raptors, 56 points
The season was still young for the Toronto Raptors on November 1, 2003, as they traveled to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves with a 2-0 early record. But they picked up their first loss that night, managing just 56 points in their 73-56 loss. Vince Carter scored 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting, and the Raptors shot an ugly 27.5% as a team from the field. They did, however, shoot 3-for-8 from the three-point line and 15-for-17 from the free throw line, which aren’t bad at all.
Miami Heat, 56 points
On December 20, 2000, the Miami Heat faced the Hornets in Charlotte and two teams played a close game. Unfortunately, neither team put up many points, with the Hornets squeaking out a 65-56 victory over Miami. Brian Grant and Anthony Mason led the way for Miami, scoring 11 points apiece and combining to shoot 7-for-17 from the field. But the team, on the whole, shot just 29.2% from the field and was 13-for-25 from the free throw line.
Miami Heat, 56 points
Another spooky coincidence is that almost a year to the day after the Heat scored 56 against the Hornets, they scored just 56 points yet again. On December 18, 2001, the Heat were trounced on their homecourt by the Utah Jazz, 95-56. Point guards Rod Strickland and Anthony Carter combined to shoot 0-for-11, and team leaders Eddie Jones and Jim Jackson were just 8-for-26 as the Heat shot 27.7% from the field and only were able to muster nine total free throw attempts.
Utah Jazz, 56 points
On February 16, 1999, the NBA lockout had just ended and teams were just barely into the early portions of their schedules. The caliber of play was clearly in decline, as teams rushed with very little training camp to get the players on the floor. The Utah Jazz were taking on the Seattle Supersonics that night, and an ugly effort would leave them with a 71-56 loss. Karl Malone led the way for the Jazz with 15 points on 4-for-13 shooting, while point guards John Stockton and Howard Eisley combined for a 2-for-15 evening.
Indiana Pacers, 55 points
Late in the season, on March 28, 1998, the Indiana Pacers were winding down their most successful regular season in franchise history. But that didn’t stop them from hitting a speedbump, getting embarrassed on their home court by the San Antonio Spurs. The Pacers could muster just 21 points in the second half against San Antonio, losing the game 74-55. The Pacers shot 27.3% from the field, being led by 12 points from Chris Mullin. It probably didn’t help at all that Reggie Miller and Rik Smits sat this one out.
Miami Heat, 54 points
Late in the 2008 season, on March 19, the Miami Heat were badly shorthanded due to injuries and were just trying to wind down an awful season. They ran into the Toronto Raptors, who were fighting for a playoff spot. The Heat only had seven total players available, with the big names being Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. Chris Quinn played all 48 minutes for the Heat, shooting 5-for-14 and 0-for-6 on three-pointers, leading the team with 14 points in their 96-54 loss.
Utah Jazz, 54 points
This game gets extra notoriety because it actually happened in the 1998 NBA Finals. The Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz were tied in the best-of-seven series at 1-1, heading to Chicago for the next three games of the series. The game was low-scoring but close after the first quarter, with the Bulls leading 17-14. But Chicago would pull away with a big second quarter and eventually they’d take the game, 96-54. Karl Malone was actually 8-for-11 from the field for 22 points, but the rest of the team was just 13-59 (22.0% shooting) for 32 points.
Denver Nuggets, 53 points
In the early 2000s, the Denver Nuggets were not good. This was on display in their November 16, 2002 meeting with the Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The most points Denver would score in a quarter in that game were the 15 they scored in the second period, losing the game by a score of 74-53. Juwan Howard led the Nuggets in scoring with 12 points on 5-for-18 shooting, while the team committed 33 personal fouls and turned the ball over 21 times.
Chicago Bulls, 49 points
After the Chicago Bulls won their sixth championship in the 1990s, they allowed their coach and all their best players to leave while fielding a team in 1999 that had little business playing on an NBA court. On April 10, 1999, the Miami Heat and their 22-11 record strolled into Chicago and put a beating on the Bulls, who shot an all-time low 23.4% from the field. Forward Kornel David led the Bulls with 13 points, shooting 4-for-10 from the field. Toni Kukoc shot just 4-for-16 in that game, and Chicago was 0-for-9 on three-pointers and 13-for-24 from the free throw line in an 82-49 loss to the Heat.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.