A perfect game is a rarity in baseball, but the kind that took place in the NBA on Thursday night is even more unusual.
The Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks combined to shoot 41-for-41 from the free throw line in Milwaukee’s 102-93 victory on Thursday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the best display of free-throw shooting in NBA history.
The previous mark was held by the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors, who were a combined 16-for-16 from the line on Dec. 22, 2000. That’s the only other game in the shot clock era in which both teams went the entire night without missing a free throw.
Two other performances come close. On April 4, 1997, the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns were a combined 36-for-37. Nearly six years later, on April 5, 2003, the Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves were a combined 43-for-44.
In both instances, it was a Suns miss that prevented perfection.
Coincidentally, the Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers had 41 free-throw attempts on Thursday as well. But they failed at achieving perfection by a wide margin, combining to miss 14 attempts.
Between them, the Pistons and Bucks were shooting 76 percent from the free-throw line this season, so a game with 41 free-throw attempts figured to have around 31 makes and 10 misses. But on this night, they would be much better.
MonroeThe Bucks' two best free throw shooters, Stephen Jackson and Jon Leuer, who entered 41-for-48 from the foul line, combined to go 8-for-8. The Pistons got an 8-for-8 from Greg Monroe, who entered the day shooting 77 percent. They also got a 7-for-7 from Rodney Stuckey, who is now 30-for-34 on free-throw attempts this season.
Monroe had a fantastic all-around game. He finished with 32 points and 16 rebounds, the third Pistons player to hit both of those plateaus in a game in the past 25 seasons , joining Grant Hill and Dennis Rodman, who each did so twice (alas, neither was perfect from the foul line in those games).
For the Bucks, it was their best free-throw shooting game since going 28-for-28 in a 103-94 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 12, 2000.
The 24-for-24 for the Pistons was the best by any team in the NBA this season, the best by any team since the Minnesota Timberwolves were 25-for-25 in a 104-92 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Feb. 7, 2011.
According to Elias, the last time the Pistons made that many free throws without a miss in a game was March 12, 1985, when they went 24-for-24 in a 111-110 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
That night, they lost to a rookie named Michael Jordan, who made four late free throws of his own to seal a 32-point effort and a win for his team.
Howard not so perfect, but sets record in win
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard wasn't anything close to perfect on Thursday, but he set an NBA mark nonetheless.
Most Free Throw Attempts
Single Game NBA History
Howard broke the record for free-throw attempts in a game with 39 in Orlando's 117-109 win over the Golden State Warriors. Howard broke the mark of 34 that stood for nearly 50 years, set by Wilt Chamberlain against the Hawks on Feb. 22, 1962.
Howard's 18 misses are the most by any player, not named Chamberlain, in NBA history.
Perhaps we can expect a big scoring day from Howard in the future. Less than two weeks after Chamberlain set that free throw attempts record, he set another record, one that hasn't been touched. On March 2, 1962, he scored 100 points in a win over the New York Knicks.
For now, Howard will have to settle for what he did on Thursday: becoming the only active player with a 40-point/20-rebound game.