The lowest scoring NBA Game was between Fort Wayne Pistons and Minneapolis Lakers, where the final score was 19-18 to the Fort Wayne Pistons.
Since the introduction of the shot clock the lowest scoring NBA game was Feb. 27, 1955 when Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Hawks combined for just 119 points.
When we are talking about the lowest scoring NBA games such things are mainly part of the past. In modern basketball, it is almost impossible to think of a match where teams score less than 100 points. Although a long time ago we have a history in front of ourselves when NBA teams barely scored more than 50 points. In this article, we will have a look at the 5 lowest-scoring NBA games and it is not a surprising fact that these games occurred almost 70 years ago – before the 24-second shot clock era was introduced. Almost every match on our list has one general resemblance – they were played during the 1946/1947 season when the 24-second rule was not in force yet and basketball was really different from the one that we see today.
5. Boston Celtics – Pittsburgh Ironmen (46-44)
This match took place a really long time ago on December 2, 1946. During that period statistics were hardly recorded and it was really difficult to keep track of each player’s results. If you take a look at the box score the only available stats include points. Al Brightman was the highest-scoring player from the Boston Celtics with 12 points and Tony Kappen netted 7. It is incredible, but the Celtics made 17 field goals in total which by today’s standards is something hard to imagine.
4. Washington Capitols – Pittsburgh Ironmen (49-40)
Most of our games on the list occurred during the 1946-1947 season. This was a period when basketball in the United States was really gaining popularity. Like the previous game, there is little information about the course of the match. It took place on November 30, 1946, in Washington. What we can draw out from the statistics is that the Washington Capitols were a clear favorite of winning this confrontation while the Pittsburgh Ironmen were struggling during the season.
3. Boston Celtics – Washington Capitols (47-38)
This is a match that took palace on January 16, 1947. Fred Scolari and Al Brightman which we have already mentioned below collected 17 and 14 points respectively from the Capitols and Celtics. By taking a look at the score sheet by quarters, the maximum amount of points did not exceed 15 which looks unbelievable. Nowadays such a score can be accomplished in a single quarter but we are talking about an era where basketball was still in the development process. In total, both teams made 32 field goals and executed 37 free throws. The Washington Capitols were deemed favorites for this match but the Celtics emerged as winners eventually.
2. Washington Capitols – Detroit Falcons (50-33)
Another lowest-scoring match happened during the 1946/1947 season and in particular, this confrontation occurred on November 2, 1946. From the Washington Capitols we can talk about Bob Feerick and Fred Scolari both of whom scored 14 points respectively and Bones McKinney followed with 11.
As for the Detroit Falcons, Stan Miasek was a leader with 9 points. Such stats look hilarious nowadays. The teams managed to score 28 field goals in 4 quarters and only 27 free throws. There is no official record of rebounds, steals, assists, and blocks on the Internet and it is not a wonder because the match was played almost 80 years ago.
1. Fort Wayne Pistons – Minneapolis Lakers (19-18)
Four matches that we have reviewed above were in the range of 80 points but this particular encounter is nowhere close to these results. Actually during this match spectators only witnessed 37 points! There are no evident statistics of this game as well, but for sure on that day, November 22, 1950, more people fell asleep in the stands than points were scored during the match. In the most lackluster game in league history, the Pistons (known as the Fort Wayne Pistons) beat the Lakers (still the Minneapolis Lakers) 19:18. The 24-second rule hasn’t been introduced yet, so the Fort Wayne players just held the ball, preventing the dominant Minneapolis-based George Mikan from attacking the ring. But even given the low tempo of the game, this result is strongly given against the background of the season. The Pistons didn’t score less than 64 points a game that year, and the Lakers didn’t score below 63. Mikan scored 15 of the Lakers’ 18 points, and no Pistons player scored more than five points.
Mikan was always a dominant figure for his team and it is not a surprise that he scored 15 points. John Oldham from the Pistons was actually the one who managed to net 5 points 3 of which came from the free throws.
The Shot Clock Era
Since the introduction of the shot clock in 1954, the lowest combined score set by two NBA teams was set on Feb. 27, 1955 when Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Hawks combined for 119 points. With Boston winning 62 to 57. More recently the lowest points total for a post shot clock NBA team was set in April 1999 by the Chicago Bulls. With just 49 points vs the Miami Heat, who ran out winners with 82. You’ll notice from the box score below that a few months removed from winning their SIXTH NBA title of the decade the once mighty Bulls were without both Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen (who averaged more than 49pts combined for their whole careers). For context this was the 1999 lock out season after MJ retired. The Chicago Bulls finished the 60 game season with a 13 and 37 record.
The Bottom Line
The NBA has evolved since then and currently, it is almost impossible to conceive that such anti-records will ever happen. Teams are more focused on the offense and in almost every game over 200 points combined are scored. The introduction of the 24-second rule and 3-point shots enabled teams to diversify their game strategy, speeding up play. Right now it is not possible to hold the ball anymore and restrain the opposing team from attacking. Such records remain a thing of the past and are unlikely to be repeated in the future.