For those of you too young to remember the NBA of the 1940s and '50s, when two-handed set-shooters roamed the court in canvas hightops, consider this season an extended history lesson. This is what it was like when scoreboards rarely needed space for a third digit, when teams were only slightly more likely to reach 100 than Ben Hogan was. The nightly highlights this season should be shown on grainy black-and-white film, because in the league's 50th-anniversary season we've not only seen teams wear throwback uniforms, we've also seen them produce throwback scores.
The paltry point totals have become so common now that we no longer double-check to see if they are third-quarter numbers. It's as if someone brought the Rochester Royals and Syracuse Nationals back to life. The scores have been so low that, through Sunday, eight times this season a team scored less than 80 points and won. Offensive production hasn't been this anemic since Eisenhower was president: The last time the NBA's team scoring average was lower than the 94.5 points at which it stood Sunday night was 1954-55, when the 24-second shot clock was introduced. This season's average is five points lower than last season's. Here are some of the more glaring clunkers.
Nov. 4: Houston Rockets 75, Utah Jazz 72. The lowest output ever for the Jazz franchise.
Nov. 5: San Antonio Spurs 74, Cleveland Cavaliers 68. San Antonio ties a team record for fewest points in the first half (31).
Nov. 10: Los Angeles Clippers 81, Minnesota Timberwolves 70. Minnesota sets its franchise record for fewest points, and the teams combine for the fewest third-quarter points (22) in league history.
Nov. 15: Atlanta Hawks 85, Miami Heat 77. Miami establishes the NBA record for fewest points in the second half (21).
Nov. 21: Hawks 73, Milwaukee Bucks 65. Milwaukee breaks its record for fewest points, and Atlanta scores more than 70 for the first time in three games.
Nov. 23: Orlando Magic 76, Indiana Pacers 73. Indiana doesn't score a field goal in the final nine minutes of the game.
DEC. 4: Cavaliers 84, Magic 57. Orlando scores only one field goal in the fourth quarter and ties the shot-clock-era record for fewest points in a game.
DEC. 7: New York Knicks 89, Clippers 80. L.A. scores eight points in the first quarter—the second time it's gotten eight in a quarter this season—and nearly wins.