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Fun with Box Scores: A wild opening week to 2022

It hasn’t been the best week for the Spurs, but there were still some wild box scores out there.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Long-time readers know that I like box-scores. One of my first pieces here was from November 8, 2014, entitled How a Coach Reads a Box Score.

Five years later, I wrote about a game in which the Spurs beat the Rockets despite every one of the Spurs starters having a negative plus-minus. (Maybe you remember that game. Some crazy and wonderful things went down that night.) The Spurs also allowed James Harden to score 50 points (including an NBA record 24 for 24 on free throws). Rockets center Clint Cappella had over 20 points AND 20 rebounds while shooting 100% from the floor. The Rockets lost despite taking more shots from the field, making twelve more free throws (at 94%), getting six more offensive rebounds, and committing four less turnovers. Yup, that was a fun box score to write about.

On April 27, 2021, I wrote a similar piece after a Spurs win on the road against a red-hot Washington Wizards team. (I know that “red hot” is not often followed by the words “Washington Wizards”, but the Wizards had won eight in a row before that game.) The box score from the game showed that the five leading scorers combined to make zero, nada, no three pointers. None of the Spurs’ starters made a single three. None of the Wizards guards or perimeter players made a three. I also noted:

“The Wizards had 8 blocked shots to the Spurs’ 1, 50 rebounds to the Spurs 44, 18 offensive rebounds to the Spurs 13, and 58 made shots to the Spurs 55. But this is the key stat: Wins. Spurs 1, Wizards 0.”

I decided to do a Fun with Box Scores piece because Friday night’s Spurs loss to the 76ers was anything but fun. Any game in which the Spurs are forced to start Bryn Forbes, Keita Bates-Diop and a (barely) 19 year-old rookie does not promise to be much fun, especially against a strong 76er team at home. As predicted, the Spurs lost, though I would not have predicted that the 76ers would score on 17 of their first 19 possessions. Ouch. So while that game was unfolding, I took the opportunity to look back at this week’s games to see if I could locate some fun box scores. I could! Such as:

Sunday night, the Timberwolves managed to lose to the Lakers despite out rebounding them 55-27, including 19-4 on offensive rebounds. The Wolves lost despite getting over 40% of their own missed shots back on the boards, leading to 17 more shots. Looking at it from the other side, the Lakers beat a mediocre Wolves team by only five points despite the fact that the Wolves were without their two best players.

Monday night’s games were even wackier. Let’s compare the games played by two of the best point guards in the game. Steph Curry, the best Shooter of all-time, went 3 for 17 from the floor, including 1 of 10 from three. His team won. Tre Young went 17 for 26 from the floor, including 7 of 12 from three and 15/15 from the line, for a total of 56 points. Young also had 14 assists. His team lost.

Curry’s team won Monday night despite his brick-fest largely because his backcourt mate, the immortal Jordan Poole, had a Curry-like game of his own with 32 points in 26 minutes. Young’s team lost largely because the Trailblazers’ Anfernee Simons (averaging 13 points per game) decided to have a Curry game of his own. Simons beat his season average by 30 points, scoring 43 with nine three-pointers.

Jumping ahead to the Warriors next game, they lost when Curry had a second consecutive brick-fest, going 5 for 24 overall, 1 for 9 from three. Poole could not bail him out this time, scoring only 6 points himself, as the mighty Ws scored only 82 points as a team in their 17 point loss to Dallas.

DeMar DeRozan had better back-to-back games than Curry, becoming the first player ever to make game-winning buzzer-beater three pointers in consecutive games. But you probably knew that. Scouring the box-scores on your behalf, I was curious as to how many threes DeRozan made in the Bulls’ next game after his back-to-back heroics. Because I am writing about it, you probably know the answer: Zero.

The Celtics Jaylen Brown has a similar “game-after” story. On January 2, he scored a career high 50 points on 19/29 from the floor, 5/10 from three, with 11 boards. Only the fifth Celtic ever to record a 50/10 game. In his next game, Brown missed a lay-up at the buzzer that would have tied the game against the Spurs. Because Brown missed that lay-up, his team lost 99-97 to the Spurs. Tough game, basketball.

My favorite ex-Spur can vouch for the difficulty of the game of basketball. DannyGreen! put up a remarkable stat line in the 76ers’ 116-107 win over a terrible Orlando Magic team. Despite starting and playing 23 minutes, DG made no baskets (on two attempts), no free throws (on zero attempts), and had no rebounds, and no assists. He also had no blocks, or turnovers. If he hadn’t committed his single foul, he barely needed to be in the box score at all, although he was saved by the NBA retroactively rewarding him with a steal:

But let’s end on a high note. During the Toronto Raptors run to their first and only NBA crown, I described their starting back-court as Hobbits:

I described Kyle Lowry as a “gamer”. As proof, 6’1’’ (on a good day) Lowry is leading his team in rebounds in the playoffs, with almost 9 per game. And my Gritty Over-Achiever nominee for the Raptors, undrafted Fred VanVleet (who is also listed at 6’1” but is not as tall as Lowry), started the playoffs with this line in Game One: 11 for 15 from the floor, 8 for 10 from three, 11 assists, and 30 points. My friends, that is a great game even for a full-sized NBA player. He followed that up with a 24 points and 10 assists in Game Two, and 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists on 6 of 10 from three in Game Three. Hobbits rule in the Great North.

Friday night, the Raptors’ remaining Hobbit had his career first triple-double with 37 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. And VanFleet did it against a strong Utah Jazz team. The 10 boards is the cool stat for a Hobbit. He out-rebounded every other player on both teams, all of whom are taller than young Frodo. Yes, that is a high point for a short person.