Tracking Races for NBA Scoring Title, Rebounding Crown and More
They didn't all bring the final dramatic charges that hoops heads had been hoping for, but most of the individual statistic crowns remained unsettled entering the final night of the 2012-13 season.
Playoff jostling will dominate Thursday's headlines as just two of the eight first-round matchups were set when play began on Wednesday night.
But the battles within the battles, the solo stat races still warranted heavy attention.
Carmelo Anthony wrapped up the first scoring title of his career before the night even got started. But he wasn't the only prolific scorer etching his name into the history books.
Rajon Rondo's been rehabbing for months, but that didn't stop him from locking up his second straight assists crown. Dwight Howard secured the rebounding title before he even stepped foot on the floor, but it wouldn't be his final entry into the history books of the season.
Fellow Defensive Player of the Year candidate Serge Ibaka earned an early exit from the Oklahoma City Thunder's clash with the Milwaukee Bucks, but still walked away with his second shot-blocking title in his four-year career.
As for the steals race, let's just say Chris Paul and Ricky Rubio swiped that lead from each other before the night was finished.
Note: This article was last updated on the morning of April 18, 2013.
Points Per Game
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Carmelo Anthony has won his first NBA scoring title..
Kevin Durant announced via his Instagram account that he would not be playing in the Oklahoma City Thunder's final game against the Milwaukee Bucks
SITTING OUT TONIGHT'S GAME, if you disappointed I didn't try to go for the scoring title, oh well!!
Sitting out seemed insane for Durant to do. Another scoring title would have put him alongside Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the only NBA players to ever lead the league in scoring for at least four consecutive seasons. Who wouldn't want to make that kind of history?
He had already said Carmelo Anthony could have the title, and I'm sure knowing that he needed to drop 70 points (when his career high is 52) against Milwaukee made this an easy decision. And he would have needed all 70 of them since 'Melo sat out against the Atlanta Hawks.
Of course, riding the bench did come with its own positives. It secured Durant's brilliant shooting percentages, making him just the sixth member in league history of the 50/40/90 club.
Since Harden couldn't quite pour in the 243 points he needed, congratulations are in order for 'Melo. And Durant too, for making the responsible decision.
1. Carmelo Anthony (28.7)
2. Kevin Durant (28.1)
3. Kobe Bryant (27.3)
4. LeBron James (26.8)
5. James Harden (25.9)
Assists Per Game
USA TODAY Sports
It may be a win on a technicality, but it's still well-deserved.
Rajon Rondo hasn't played a single minute since tearing his ACL against the Atlanta Hawks back in January, but thanks to assembling the finest passing displays the league had seen before going down, he's the NBA's assists leader for the second consecutive season.
He's nowhere near the 70-game threshold, but Rondo took full advantage of the fact that the NBA also allows a player to qualify for the assist crown if he's dished out at least 400 dimes in a given season.
For all those curious, the Celtics floor general had 420 before going down.
Chris Paul was the Association's active leader for whatever that offers as a consolation prize. If nothing else, he's got an outside shot at making a sports trivia appearance down the line.
1. Rajon Rondo (11.1)
2. Chris Paul (9.7)
3. Greivis Vasquez (9.0)
4. Jrue Holiday (8.0)
5. Deron Williams (7.7)
Rebounds Per Game
Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Before Kobe Bryant and the generous Utah Jazz opened the postseason door for the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard was battered by an overanxious media.
The fact that Superman was already battered himself, rehabbing from back surgery and a torn labrum in his shoulder, didn't seem to matter.
Yet even in the face of tremendous adversity Howard reminded the basketball world that he's still the best thing going at the center spot.
For as stressful as this season has been for Howard and the Lakers, Wednesday night brought some badly needed relief.
Utah's 86-70 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies officially clinched L.A.'s playoff berth. And Howard secured the fifth rebounding crown of his nine-year career.
But that didn't stop Howard from getting to work early in the Lakers' game with the Houston Rockets, via Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
Dwight Howard just became the youngest player in NBA history to get 9,000 rebounds. Dwight (27 yrs, 130 days), Wilt (27 years, 144 days)— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 18, 2013
Nikola Vucevic gave it a valiant effort in his first season with the Orlando Magic, grabbing 13 rebounds in his final game of the season. But this was Superman's season on the glass, even if no one wanted to give him credit for it.
1. Dwight Howard (12.4)
2. Nikola Vucevic (11.9)
3. Omer Asik (11.7)
4. David Lee (11.2)
5. Zach Randolph (11.1)
*Notable exclusions: Anderson Varejao (14.4), Kevin Love (14.0), Joakim Noah (11.4)
Steals Per Game
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Steals titles are like millions at this point in Chris Paul's career.
He's got more than he can count, but wouldn't mind adding to his collection.
Through the majority of Wednesday night, though, it appeared that Ricky Rubio just might knock Paul off the defensive perch he's manned in four of the past five seasons. The Minnesota Timberwolves point guard added two thefts to his resume against the San Antonio Spurs, leaving Paul in need of a single swipe to carry home his fifth steals title.
It certainly sounded easy enough. After all Paul had registered at least one steal in 66 of his 69 games this season entering the Los Angeles Clippers' game with the Sacramento Kings.
But the first half ended sans steal for CP3. Ditto for the first half of the third quarter.
Finally with 2:55 seconds left in the third, Paul managed to pry the ball loose from John Salmons.
For a statistical category so deeply founded in effort and hard work, there could not have been a more fitting end to this riveting race.
1. Chris Paul (2.43)
2. Ricky Rubio (2.40)
3. Mike Conley (2.18)
4. Monta Ellis (2.06)
5. Kemba Walker (1.95)
Blocks Per Game
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Serge Ibaka swatted away all competitors for the shot-blocking crown, despite turning away just one shot in his final game of the season. Although the fact that he was able to find a block during his eight-minute run on Wednesday was an achievement in itself.
His closest competitor, Larry Sanders, sat out Milwaukee's final four games of the year for some playoff preparation rest. But considering he was seeing four minutes less per night than Ibaka, it was going to be a challenge for Sanders to keep Ibaka from his second-straight blocks title.
Tim Duncan made a late-season charge at Ibaka, averaging nearly three blocks a night over the month of April. But with Gregg Popovich limiting him to 27 minutes on the final night of the year left him with nothing more than a third-place standing.
1. Serge Ibaka (3.03)
2. Larry Sanders (2.83)
3. Tim Duncan (2.65)
4. Roy Hibbert (2.61)
5. Dwight Howard (2.45)