Credit: Peach Basket Society
In the 1999 NBA season, the number of points scored per game by a team was 91.6. In the 2021 NBA season, that number has increased to 112.1, a twenty-point increase!
However, even 91.6 points is A LOT compared to the average number of points a team scored per game back in the 1940s. In the 47 NBA season, the average number of points was ONLY 67.6.
Although this is titled "Top 5 Lowest Scoring NBA Games," we're really looking back at the NBA during the 40s-50s as ALL FIVE of the lowest-scoring NBA games were during that time.
If you're only interested in THE lowest-scoring NBA game of all time, the lowest-scoring game in NBA history was during the 1950-51 NBA season in a match between the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers. The Pistons would only score 19, and the Lakers would only score 18.
Table of Contents:
Boston Celtics vs. Pittsburgh Ironmen (46-44)
The NBA didn't even exist when this game took place. In fact, all these games, except for the game between the Pistons and Lakers, happened when the NBA was known as the Basketball Association of America. In addition, all these games besides the game between the Pistons and Lakers were during the 1946-47 BAA season.
Since this was during the beginnings of professional basketball, the only stats that were recorded were points, field goals, free throws, free throw attempts, and free throw percentage.
For some reason, other stats like assists and field goal percentage appear on players' season/career stat-lines, but not for individual games.
The player with the most points in this game was Al Brightman. Brightman scored twelve points. This was more than what he averaged as, during that season, Brightman averaged 9.8 points a game! Considering that the average amount of points a team scored was 67.6, Brightman was probably considered a 'lethal scorer' back then.
Another interesting fun fact is that Pete Maravich's dad, Press Maravich, played in the game. He took two field-goal attempts and made both of them, totaling a whopping four points. Press Maravich would only play one season of pro basketball as he was already 31 years old in his first year.
Washington Capitols vs. Pittsburgh Ironmen (49-40)
The Washington Capitols are in THREE of the TOP FIVE lowest-scoring NBA games, so that's definitely not an achievement you want to be imprinted in your teams' history. However, in the Capitols defense, there were only eleven teams in the league back then (1946-67). Also, the Capitols had the best win/loss record that season at 49-11.
In this game, the player with the most points was Bob Feerick. Feerick ended the game with fourteen points but shot a measly 40% from the free-throw line. Shooting 40% from the free-throw line was surprising for Feerick as, throughout his career, he shot 80.5% from the free-throw line.
Another surprising fact is that fourteen points was not even that much for Feerick. Feerick averaged 16.8 points that season (1946-47). In addition, in three of the four years that Feerick played in the BAA, he was a part of the All-BAA three times!
Boston Celtics vs. Washington Capitols (47-38)
Although the Celtics and Capitols' combined points were only 85 points, this is the first game in the top five lowest-scoring NBA/BAA games with two players from both sides scoring more than ten points! Wow... how amazing.
Al Brightman, who had the most points in the Boston Celtics vs. Pittsburgh Ironmen game, had the most points in this game. Brightman scored fourteen points and shot 57.1% from the free-throw line. On the other hand, Fred Scolari scored the most for the Washington Capitols. Scolari scored seventeen points and scored 100% from the free-throw line.
Unlike many of the other players back then, Fred Scolari actually had a pretty long
professional basketball career. His career would last for nine years, and within those nine years, he would be a part of the All-BAA two times and was a 2x All-Star.
Although the Capitols were probably more likely to win this game, 7/9 (78%) of the team had less than five points. On the other hand, 5/8 (63%) of Celtics players had more than five points. Besides Brightman and Scolari, the player with the third-highest number of points was Feerick (who had the most points in the Capitols versus Ironmen game), who had nine points.
Washington Capitols vs. Detroit Falcons (50-33)
This is the last lowest-scoring NBA/BAA game with the Washington Capitols and the last lowest-scoring NBA/BAA game during the 1946-47 BAA season. The highest number of points scored by a player was tied between two players that we've already mentioned, Bob Feerick and Fred Scolari. Both players had fourteen points.
The second most points scored by a player was another Washington Capitols player, Bones McKinney. Like Scolari, McKinney was also a part of the All-BAA two times and was a 2x All-Star. However, McKinney's career only lasted for six years. Who knows if he would have had more All-BAA and All-Star selections!
The Capitols actually scored a decent number of points this game. What makes this one of the lowest-scoring NBA games really falls on the Detroit Falcons. Besides Stan Miasek and Grady Lewis, every other player on the Falcons had less than five points.
Fort Wayne Pistons vs. Minneapolis Lakers (19-18)
Finally... the lowest-scoring NBA game in NBA history was between the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers on November 22nd, 1950. The Pistons and Lakers would combine for ONLY 37 POINTS! That's less than the Washington Capitols alone during their game against the Boston Celtics.
The score was so low because of how the Pistons manipulated the rules to their advantage. Back then, there was no 24-second clock violation in the NBA. As a result, the Pistons would hold the ball so that George Mikan would not score. Mikan was, without a doubt, the Lakers' best player.
Mikan had 15/18 (83%) of the Lakers' points. Mikan shot 4/11 from the field and 7/11 from the free-throw line. He also had 4/9 (44%) of the Lakers' rebounds. The only two Lakers players that scored in that game were Bob Harrison (two points) and Jim Pollard (one point).
To be honest, although extremely stupid, it was pretty smart of the Pistons to hold the ball so that Mikan couldn't score. After all, Mikan was probably one of the best players in the NBA during that time period. During that season, Mikan averaged:
28.4 Points, 14.1 Rebounds, 3.1 Assists.
42.8 FG%, 80.3 FT%
Throughout his career, Mikan would be a 4x All-Star, 5x Champion, 6x All-NBA/BAA, All-Star MVP, 3x Scoring Champion, Rebounding Champion, and a Hall of Famer. You also have to take into account that Mikan only had a seven-year NBA career as well!
On the other hand, the Falcons player with the most points was John Oldham. Oldham only scored five points that game. The Falcons best played, Larry Foust (8x All-Star), would only score two points that game.
Even more, interestingly, the number of personal fouls committed between both teams (24) was more than how many points each team scored!
I guess you can't hate the player; hate the game.