The fast-paced nature of basketball games has made them one of the most popular sports in the world. It is hard to imagine a basketball game in which a team does not score any points. Unlike most basketball games which are exciting and fun, it would be pretty boring if a team never scored. So, has this ever happened?
There has never been a basketball team that has scored zero points during a game in the big leagues. While it is possible to score zero points in a basketball game, thankfully, it has not happened in the sport’s recorded history.
There have been some snail-paced games in the NBA, WNBA, NCAA, and NCAAW where teams played terribly. While no team has ever scored no points in an entire game, some teams have managed to gain very low scores. Read on to learn about some of the lowest-scoring teams and games in basketball history.
Lowest Points Scored in NBA History
The lowest score that a team in the NBA has ever scored was 18 points, and the second-lowest was 19. The real kicker is that both of these disastrous scores were in the same game. On November 22, 1950, the Minneapolis Lakers lost with a score of 18 to the Fort Wayne Pistons, who scored 19 points.
That must have been one boring game for spectators. In basketball games, higher scores typically mean the game has more action and excitement. However, back in 1950, basketball games did not yet utilize the shot clock. Older basketball games’ strategies were planned differently.
What about the other lowest-scoring teams? Below is a list of the lowest-scoring NBA teams of all time. You will notice that these scores also took place in 1950 and before. Basketball was played differently in that era, and it was not uncommon to see low-scoring games.
|Fort Wayne Pistons||19||1950|
Basketball games were generally slower-paced during this time because there were no rules to prevent players from taking as much time as needed. The NBA implemented the shot clock in 1954 as an answer to the slow-paced, lackluster playstyle or the era.
The Shot Clock Difference
Since the debut of the shot clock, professional basketball games have become quite a bit more exciting. The shot clock restricted professional teams from having possession of the ball for more than 24 seconds at a time. The faster pace meant that coaches began taking more risks, and players took more shots per game.
Thanks to the shot clock, the average score of each game increased. Fans of the sport have grown accustomed to the action.
Lowest Scores in the Shot Clock Era
Even after the NBA implemented shot clocks, sometimes professional teams still had a hard time getting the ball into the basket.
After the shot clock became a regular addition to basketball games, the Chicago Bulls became the lowest-scoring team in the shot clock era. The Bulls have won multiple championships, but in 1999 they faced off against the Miami Heat. At the end of the night, The Bulls had lost the game with a score of 49 to 82.
This was one of the worst seasons in the Chicago Bulls’ history with 65 losses. They would continue performing at this substandard level for the next few seasons.
Generally, the shot clock increased each NBA game’s average score, but here are the 10 lowest-scoring NBA games after the shot clock was implemented in 1954:
|Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat||49-82||1999|
|Denver Nuggets vs. Detroit Pistons||53-74||2002|
|Utah Jazz vs. Chicago Bulls||54-96||1998|
|Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors||54-96||2008|
|Indiana Pacers vs. San Antonio Spurs||55-74||1998|
|Utah Jazz vs. Seattle Supersonics||56-71||1999|
|Miami Heat vs. Utah Jazz||56-95||2001|
|Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets||56-65||2000|
|Toronto Raptors vs. Minnesota Timberwolves||56-73||2003|
|Orlando Magic vs. Boston Celtics||56-87||2012|
Lowest Scoring Games in College Basketball
The energy in the air at any college basketball game is unforgettable. College students and diehard fans pack the bleachers to cheer on their favorite teams with local pride.
Surprisingly, the lowest-scoring game in college basketball after the introduction of the shot clock was pretty recent. The North Carolina State Wolfpack scored a meager 24 points against Virginia Tech’s 47 points in 2019.
NCAA basketball fans might have been better off staying home for the following low-scoring games:
|North Carolina Wolfpack vs. Virginia Tech||24-47||2019|
|Wisconsin Badgers vs. Missouri State||32-43||1999|
|Illinois vs. Penn State||33-38||2009|
|Wisconsin Badgers vs. Penn State||33-36||2011|
|New Mexico vs. San Diego State||34-55||2013|
|Princeton vs. Las Vegas||35-39||1990|
|Marquette vs. Ohio State||35-52||2013|
|Clemson vs. Virginia||36-61||2018|
|Michigan State vs. Iowa||36-43||2008|
|Illinois vs. Minnesota||36-59||2009|
Lowest Scoring Teams in Women’s Basketball
The WNBA has had some exciting games since the introduction of the division in 1996. Just like with any other division, though, there have been some rough games with low scores on either side. The lowest scoring WNBA game saw the Washington Mystics play against the Cleveland Rockers on May 31, 2001.
The Washington Mystics lost to the Rockers 69 to 34 and became the lowest-scoring team in WNBA history, a title they still hold. Below are the four lowest-scoring teams in a single game in WNBA history.
- Washington Mystics vs. Cleveland Rockers 34-69 (2001)
- Miami Sol vs. Cleveland Rockers 35-54 (2001)
- Seattle Storm vs. Cleveland Rockers 36-58 (2001)
- Washington Mystics vs. Miami Sol 36-42 (2001)
Compared to the NBA, the average scores of WNBA games are lower. This is not a reflection of players’ skill but of the different game layouts. WNBA games have 10-minute quarters while NBA quarters are 12 minutes long. Those extra eight minutes per game allow for a lot of scoring.
Lowest Scoring Teams in NCAAW Basketball
NCAAW basketball has some real powerhouse teams, such as the University of Connecticut, that went 17 to 1 in the 2020-21 season. Still, other teams such as Tennessee State have a long record of mediocre performances.
In 2010 Tennessee State lost to Georgia Tech with an astonishing final score of 11 to Georgia Tech’s 82. Thanks to this abysmal display, Tennessee State holds the record for the lowest number of points ever scored during any single basketball game.
Scoring in Basketball Games
Basketball games are supposed to be exciting and entertaining to watch, but some teams throughout history have simply not delivered. To make the game faster-paced, the various leagues started to use shot clocks to prevent players from holding on to the ball for too long, causing boring delays.
After implementing the shot clock, games became more energetic, and, on average, games had a higher point average. However, there have been a few games since then with unusually low scoring on either one or both sides.
Even though there have been some low-scoring games in basketball, the majority of the games played have an excellent tempo and are exciting to watch. It is not unheard of to watch professional basketball players score over 100 points in a game these days. Will there ever be a zero-point game in the future? Probably not.
While zero-point games are not uncommon in sports like soccer, where goals are difficult to score, and goalies are stationed to prevent them, a basketball game with no scoring would be highly unlikely. Even the teams listed above with patterns of lower scores manage to score some points during each game.