Top 8 Lowest-Scoring NBA Games in History

lowest scoring nba game

When you play a game, you do it competitively. You aim to win. That’s just how humans are: always hungry for validation. Whether it’s playing Scrabble, running a three-legged race, or shooting hoops with your friends, it’s natural to seek victory.

8 NBA Games That Will Make You Scratch Your Head

Despite that natural human instinct to win, sometimes things go off the rails. Perhaps you’re having a bad day or didn’t practice enough. Maybe you didn’t put in your all because you didn’t deem your opponent worthy. If you’re a basketball fan wondering about the lowest-scoring NBA game in history, you’re in for a journey. We’ll show you not one or two but eight games where players lacked the fighting spirit you’ve come to know and love in the sport.

  • November 22, 1950: Minneapolis Lakers vs. Fort Wayne Pistons (18-19)
  • November 2, 1946: Detroit Falcons vs. Washington Capitols (33-50)
  • January 16, 1947: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Capitols (47-38)
  • November 30, 1946: Washington Capitols vs. Pittsburgh Ironmen (49-40)
  • December 2, 1946: Pittsburgh Ironmen vs. Boston Celtics (44-46)
  • January 23, 1946: Boston Celtics vs. Pittsburgh Ironmen (48-43)
  • December 15, 1946: St Louis Bombers vs. Toronto Huskies (46-50)
  • December 1, 1946: Cleveland Rebels vs. Detroit Falcons (49-47)

lowest scoring nba game

A Little Bit of History

BAA, launched in 1946, merged with the NBA in the year 1949. At this time, players’ skills weren’t as impressive as they are today. The game also had different rules and outlines. For example, jump shots were rare, and players dribbled single-handedly. The shot clock didn’t exist, and neither did the three-point line.

The Lowest-Scoring Game of All Time

Despite what you might think, the lowest-scoring NBA game didn’t occur during the inaugural season. On November 22, 1950, a game took place between the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers. With the final score of 19-18, you might have mistaken it for a friendly match where all players caught food poisoning.

However, there’s more to this story. Because this game was played before the introduction of the shot clock, the gameplay was very different. The Pistons were playing against the Lakers, who were defending league champions (and, as such, the favorites to win).

However, the Pistons managed to inch ahead at the start of the game. The team in the lead figured that it was wiser to keep the ball in control without attempting shots. Stalling was perhaps a winning tactic. Nonetheless, it didn’t make for an exciting game.

After the game, John Kundla, the Minneapolis Lakers’ coach, famously balked. He said that should this be the way the game goes, he wouldn’t want to be a part of basketball any longer. Professional basketball wouldn’t survive if things continued the way they did. There’s no disputing his point of view.

lowest scoring nba game

Analyzing the Lowest Scores

As you can see, most of these games occurred in the first season of 1946-47. Were players just less capable at this time? Think about it. In the first few years after the NBA’s inception, teams would be less polished. The league would consist of new teams learning how to play against each other. The gameplay would evolve as everyone figured out the capabilities and weaknesses of players.

Because of a lack of clear offensive strategies, games were unpredictable, to say the least. However, as time passed, the overall field goal percentage (FG%) grew. In the 1946-47 (first) season, FG% stood at a mere 27.9%. The rate jumped to 32.7% in the third season. Today, you wouldn’t be surprised if numbers surpassed 70%.

The Post-Shot-Clock Era

In April 1954, the National Basketball Association introduced the 24-second clock. The new rule was a game-changer that helped increase the average score of matches.

Basketball fans have the shot clock to thank for transforming the game into a spectator sport. The 24-second shot clock implied that possessing teams had to attempt a shot before the timer went off. Otherwise, the other team took control of the ball. With the introduction of the shot clock, we saw an improvement in the pace and excitement of NBA games. Competitiveness grew by leaps and bounds.

lowest scoring nba game

Despite all that, however, low-scoring games still occurred. Let’s look at a match between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat in 1999. It was the season right after Michael Jordan retired for the second time. The Bulls scored only 49 points, while the Heat recorded 82 points. That game saw an FG% of 26.4%, much like seasons from decades past.


Sports fans worldwide have fallen in love with basketball because it’s an adrenaline-filled game. It isn’t surprising to watch games with scores exceeding 100 points. However, that’s not always the case, as we’ve demonstrated in this article. In this mentally demanding game, fans should always expect surprises. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

Lisa Morrison is a storyteller with an eye for life's wonders. Passionate about writing, she captures fleeting moments with precision. In her spare moments, she's often found chronicling the world around her.

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