Noteworthy Shot Charts from the NBA Season's Best and Worst Performances

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Noteworthy Shot Charts from the NBA Season's Best and Worst Performances
USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James is on one of the most impressive stretches of play in NBA history. He has scored at least 30 points in each of his last five games—but, actually, that is nothing new; James had accomplished that feat nine previous times in his career, according to ESPN.

But by dropping 32 points on 18 shots yesterday as the Miami Heat handed the Los Angeles Lakers another loss, LeBron did something only two men (Moses Malone and Adrian Dantley) have ever done: score 30 points while shooting at least 60 percent in five straight games.

More incredible still is that he has made 71.4 percent of his shots over his last five contests, hitting an insane 55-of-77 shots. 

Even within this run, however, he has had one standout game for the ages.

And while nobody in the league (and perhaps nobody who has been born yet) will likely match the streak James is currently on, there have been a litany of other noteworthy shooting displays—both extraordinary and excruciating—so far this season. 


LeBron James
13-of-14 (92.9 percent), 31 points
Miami Heat 99, Charlotte Bobcats 94
February 4, 2013

When a guy wins three out of the past four NBA Most Valuable Player awards, his greatness can become mundane. Really, nobody has made the extraordinary seem more ordinary than LeBron this season, but when he has a night like he did on Feb. 4, it can't help but stand out.

He made all but one of his 14 attempts against the Charlotte Bobcats and did so without attempting a single shot outside the paint. Anybody can have a hot jumper for one game, but few players have the ability to exercise such discretion when it comes to shot selection.

It simply doesn't get any more efficient than this.

 

Jason Terry
1-of-15 (6.7 percent), 4 points
Milwaukee Bucks 99, Boston Celtics 94
December 21, 2012 

Leaving the friendly confines of his sixth-man role has not been kind to Jason Terry. He received a handful of (mostly spot) starts in recent years, but the 23 he already has this season for the Boston Celtics are the most games he has started since the 34 he totaled in 2007-08 for the Dallas Mavericks.

Overall, according to Yahoo! Sports, he has shot just 41.8 percent this year as a starter, including an underwhelming 35.1 percent from behind the arc (compared to 46.7 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from three-point range off the bench). On Dec. 7, it seemed as if his seemingly hit a low point, shooting just 1-of-12 in a one-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

But the worst was still ahead: a 1-of-15 night during an overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks two weeks later. Most disheartening of all, Terry helped ruin a throwback performance from Paul Pierce (35 points on 13-of-23 shooting) by missing all six of the shots he took in the fourth quarter and overtime as Boston coughed up a six-point lead in the final quarter and got outscored 11-6 in the extra period.


Paul Pierce
13-of-16 (81.3 percent), 40 points
Boston Celtics 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 91
December 19, 2012 

Paul Pierce made all eight of his free-throw attempts and went 6-of-7 from deep during a game in which he posted an ungodly 102.5 true shooting percentage. With "only" 24 true-shooting attempts (field goal attempts plus free throws) in the game, Pierce would not qualify for a study Elias did in May 2011, which only included players who put up at least 25 attempts.

But if he was included, he would demolish the record 93.9 true shooting percentage posted by Dirk Nowitzki in the 2011 Western Conference Finals. Pierce also finished the night with a game-high plus/minus of 29 in a 12-point victory.

 

Monta Ellis
1-of-14 (7.1 percent), 4 points
Memphis Grizzlies 90, Milwaukee Bucks 80
December 19, 2012 

Even on a night when the Bucks collectively managed to shoot just 35.3 percent (30-of-85), the futility of Monta Ellis stood out, as he made just one of his 14 field-goal attempts (7.1 percent).

While the rest of the team was bad (40.8 percent), Ellis was a joke.

Brandon Jennings didn't help much either, shooting just 9-of-26. Combined, it was arguably the worst night of the season for a backcourt that is often maligned for its tendency to chuck up too many bad shots.


James Harden
14-of-19 (73.7 percent), 45 points
Houston Rockets 109, Atlanta Hawks 102
November 2, 2012 

In his second game as a Houston Rocket, James Harden scored 45 points with an 85.0 true shooting percentage. Quite the debut, especially when you throw in the 37 points (on 25 shots) he scored on opening night.

Though Harden has not shot quite as well this season as he did coming off the bench last year in Oklahoma City, this was a sign of good shooting nights to come. He has not shot below 45 percent in any of his 15 games of 30 or more points this season, and he has made at least 50 percent of his shots in 12 of them.

Probably not so coincidentally, the Rockets are 12-4 this season when Harden scores 30 or more.

 

Carmelo Anthony
6-of-26 (23.1 percent), 20 points
Boston Celtics 102, New York Knicks 96
January 7, 2013 

Thirty-three different players have attempted 25 or more shots in a game this season, according to Basketball-Reference. None have shot as badly as Carmelo Anthony did against the Boston Celtics.

His 20 points on 26 shots is an efficiency abomination to a degree that it would make Allen Iverson blush. When you factor in that eight of his 20 misses came from behind the arc, it just makes his willingness to favor jumpers over looks in the paint even less bearable.

 

Kevin Durant
15-of-30 (50 percent), 41 points
Oklahoma City Thunder 102, Phoenix Suns 90
January 14, 2013 

Only one player in the NBA has made at least half his shots while taking more than 30 in a game this season, according to Basketball-Reference. His name is Kevin Durant. Add in the fact that he went 9-of-9 from the line, and there is little doubt that he is one of the most selective shooters in the league—while also arguably being the best.

(He also really seems to enjoy shooting from the right side of the court.)

Another interesting note: Russell Westbrook added 36 points on 14-of-24 shooting in this game, bringing the tandem's total to 77 points on 54 shots. But since Oklahoma City's other three starters (Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins) managed just six points on nine shots, the Phoenix Suns were able to make a game out of it, not fading until the fourth quarter.

 

Raymond Felton
9-of-30 (30 percent), 27 points
Chicago Bulls 92, New York Knicks 85
December 8, 2012

What were you thinking, Raymond? According to Basketball-Reference, only six NBA players have taken 30 or more shots in a game this year: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, DeMar DeRozan and Raymond Felton.

In fairness to Ray, what were you thinking, DeMar?

But in fairness to DeRozan, he made 16 of his attempts, so it was warranted.

Felton, on the other hand, just murdered his team during one of the first depressing nights for New York in what was a blazing start to the season. The team's 85 points were its lowest total of the season to that point and remain tied for its third-lowest single-game output.

 

Samuel Dalembert
17-of-21 (81.0 percent), 35 points
Denver Nuggets 112, Milwaukee Bucks 104
February 5, 2013

No NBA player has made more field goals in a game this season than Samuel Dalembert, according to Basketball-Reference.

Yes, Sam Dalembert. Scored 35 points. On 21 shots. In 27 minutes. Off the bench. In an actual National Basketball Association game. For serious.

And the Milwaukee Bucks lost.

 

Roy Hibbert
3-of-15 (20.0 percent), 7 points
Indiana Pacers 89, Washington Wizards 85
November 10, 2012

Roy Hibbert, a man who stands 7'2", has shot 40.0 percent or below in 25 separate games this season. In 24 games (some of which overlap), he has made three or fewer field goals.

This was one of the ones that overlapped, leaving his shot chart looking like a scene from The Shining.

At the time, during the Indiana Pacers' seventh game of the season, this just seemed like "one of those nights" for the big fella. As it turns out, most of the games he has played in this year have been "one of those nights."

Just "one of those seasons," I guess, for a guy who signed a guaranteed $58 million contract last summer.

 

Carmelo Anthony
15-of-24 (62.5 percent), 45 points
New York Knicks 100, Brooklyn Nets 97
December 11, 2012

In the first-ever game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, Carmelo Anthony had a big night, scoring 35 points on 25 shots. Unfortunately, nobody else on his team except Tyson Chandler shot particularly well. Raymond Felton (3-of-19), Rasheed Wallace (2-of-11), J.R. Smith (2-of-7) and Ronnie Brewer (1-of-6) shot a combined 8-of-43 (18.6 percent), all but guaranteeing that Brooklyn would strike first in this new cross-borough rivalry.

Melo seemed determined to even the score in the next matchup, heading into "The House that Jay-Z Built" and tearing the roof off. He had it going from everywhere, busting out his full arsenal to destroy the Nets in the post, behind the arc and from the mid-range.

 

Tyler Zeller
0-of-0 (n/a percent), 7 points
Cleveland Cavaliers 119, Orlando Magic 108
February 8, 2013

Tyler Zeller is the only player who has played at least 30 minutes in a game and not attempted a field goal, according to Basketball-Reference. Eleven players have pulled it off in 20 minutes or more, and three (Pablo Prigioni, Quincy Pondexter and Kendrick Perkins) have managed to also score zero points, but only Cleveland's "Big Z 2.0" has done so in 30 or more.

Then again, he did get to the line 10 times while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out three assists, so it isn't like he was a total no-show in terms of impact.

That is more the domain of Jason Collins, who attempted no shots in 23 minutes while scoring one point for the Boston Celtics on December 19. In fact, of the 27 games he has appeared in this season, Collins has taken zero shots 16 times while only taking more than two on one occasion.


Kobe Bryant
16-of-28 (57.1 percent), 42 points
Cleveland Cavaliers 100, Los Angeles Lakers 94
December 11, 2012

There are plenty of suspect shooting nights from Kobe Bryant that could be highlighted. His 16-of-41 game against the Golden State Warriors or his 8-of-25 performance in a loss to the Miami Heat, for example.

But the most notable shot chart he has posted this year came against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a loss (fittingly). Despite the outcome, he put on a virtuoso shooting clinic, hitting 14 shots from six feet away from the hoop or further, including 11 outside of the paint. 

While it doesn't always lead to such high percentages, watching a player make the tough shot after tough shot can be the most entertaining brand of basketball. And in Cleveland on December 11, Kobe did just that, turning his shot chart into a Jackson Pollock painting.

 

(All shot charts and true-shooting data used in this post are from Basketball-Reference.)

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