While the NBA has broken many scoring records in recent years, the League hasn’t always seen such offensive outbursts. On the contrary, in its debut, the scores were much lower and an all-time record was even set on February 27, 1955. Flashback.
That day, Boston and Milwaukee meet on the side of Providence (in the state of Rhode Island). If neither of the two teams is one of the best in the League in this 1954-55 season, there are still some big names on the floor. On the Celtics side, there are several future Hall of Famers including Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman et Ed Macauley. On the Hawks side, because yes the Falcons were still in Milwaukee at the time, we obviously had the big Bob Pettit – who is then only a rookie but who already does a lot of damage – as well as players like Alex Hannum (future Hall of Famer coach) and a certain Chuck Cooper, the first African-American player to be drafted in the NBA (by the… Celtics). Beautiful people therefore, except that the show is not really there. The two teams indeed combine only 119 points in this game, with the Celtics ultimately winning 62-57 in a meeting where no player reaches the bar of 20 units (the best scorer is called Chuck Share with 19 points). Just for the record, 119 is less than the average points scored by the Bucks during the 2020-21 season (120.1). Proof that the NBA has evolved since then, which has become more than ever an offensive league in recent years under the impetus of 3-point shooting and a fast pace of play. In the mid-1950s, of course, the 3-point line did not yet exist and it was sometimes two to the hour.
This meeting between Boston and Milwaukee remains the least prolific in NBA history in the era of 24 seconds. This last detail is important because before the installation of the clock of 24 on April 22, 1954, many games ended with a total lower than the 119 points scored on February 27, 1955. The best known is obviously the one between the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers on November 22, 1950, which ended with a record score of… 19-18 in favor of the Pistons. The 24-second clock helped multiply possessions in a game, to speed up the game and thus make the encounters much more interesting in the eyes of the fans. An essential step to allow the NBA to evolve positively. Because at the beginning of the 1950s, the league had difficulty gaining popularity because of these matches which got bogged down and ended on low scores. Once in place, the 24 clock radically changed the behavior of players, who immediately felt much more pressured to take a shot, even if it meant rushing…
The scores logically ended up climbing but certain matches, such as that of February 27, 1955 between Boston and Milwaukee, remain today in history for their low number of points. Two years later, the Celtics and the Hawks will meet again, this time in the NBA Finals and especially with scores exceeding 100 points on each side.