Dirk Nowitzki had an epic performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. He went 12 for 15 from the field and made a record 24 of 24 shots from the free throw line to score 48 points in the Mavs win. Was Nowitzki's huge night the greatest shooting performance in NBA history? I looked into the matter.
In NBA history, only two other times has a player scored 40 points while shooting better than
80 percent from the field and 100 percent from the free-throw line (minimum of 10 attempts):
1. Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors, February 20, 2008, against the Orlando Magic: 40 points on
14 for 16 shooting from the field and 11 for 11 from the free throw line
2. Cedric Ceballos, Phoenix Suns, March 9, 1993, against the Sacramento Kings: 40 points on
14 for 15 shooting from the field and 12 for 12 from the free throw line
Since Nowitzki scored eight more points than Bosh and Ceballos — and accomplished his feat in a playoff game — he gets the nod over those two in this case.
If you allow for a little imperfection from the free throw line, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Terry Porter's performance in a May 19, 1992 Western Conference Finals game against the Utah Jazz can be compared with Nowitzki's night: Porter had 41 points on 12 of 14 shooting from the field and 13 of 14 makes from the charity stripe.
Also, Elton Brand of the Los Angeles Clippers scored 40 points on May 8, 2006, in a second-round playoff game against the Phoenix Suns. Brand was 18 for 22 from the field and four of six from the line.
Porter, Brand, and Nowitzki are the only three players in NBA history to reach 40 points in a playoff game while shooting better than 80 percent from the field. But once again, Nowitzki gets the nod here because he scored a lot more points than Porter and Brand. Plus, consider this: Counting free throws, Nowitzki took 39 shot attempts in last night's game — and missed only three shots total.
Sure, there have been other impressive shooting displays in NBA history. But considering Nowitzki's high point total, the magnitude of the game, the difficulty of the shots he was taking (mostly contested jumpers), and his perfect showing at the free-throw line, I consider his game last night to be the greatest shooting performance of all time.
What did you think of Dirk's big night? Let me know in the comments below!