The 1977-78 NBA scoring race was so close — San Antonio’s George Gervin (27.21 ppg) edged Denver’s David Thompson (27.15 ppg) — that if you turn to the Official NBA Guide for the points leaders for that season, you’ll discover Gervin’s and Thompson’s averages extend two decimal points rather the traditional one, necessitated by the fact that the league’s closest scoring race ever was determined by a miniscule .06 ppg. That contest has entered the realm of the legendary based on the final day of the regular season. Thompson began the Nuggets’ game against Detroit trailing Gervin by .02 ppg — 26.8-26.6 — and proceeded to explode for 73 points, at that time, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, finishing the season at 27.15 ppg. Gervin’s Spurs played their final game against Utah later that day. Needing at least 58 points to win the title, Gervin netted 63, winning the scoring title by 0.06 of a point. For 33 years, that mark has stood. (The second closest scoring race in league annals occurred in 1985-86 when Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins (30.33 ppg) edged Denver’s Adrian Dantley (29.83 ppg) by 0.5 ppg.)
It is in doubt, however, whether it will hold for a 34th season. That’s because Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (27.90 ppg) and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (27.86 ppg) enter the final week of the regular season separated by a microscopic .04 ppg. According to NBA.com/Stats, the two entered the All-Star break separated by one-half point per game, with Bryant pacing the league at 28.4 ppg followed by Durant at 27.9 ppg. Since then, however, Durant has been amazingly consistent, maintaining his 27.9 ppg pace in 30 second-half games, while Bryant has averaged 27.1 points in 24 contests, missing seven games with a left shin injury. When Bryant suffered his injury, he was ahead of Durant, 28.07 ppg-27.87 ppg (through games played April 6). In nine games since, however, Durant has averaged 28.1 points; he’s averaging 32.0 points over his last five. Bryant, meanwhile, has played in the Lakers’ last two games, averaging 22 points.
The Lakers’ remaining game is Thursday at Sacramento. Bryant has averaged 33.5 points this season in two games against the Kings. The Thunder has two games left, tomorrow against Sacramento and Wednesday against Denver. Durant’s combined average in five games against the Kings and Denver this season is 32.0 points.
James, Jefferson Earn Weekly Honors
The Miami Heat’s LeBron James and the Utah Jazz’s Al Jefferson today were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played April 16-22. James helped Miami to a 4-1 week, averaging 31.0 points on 58 percent shooting, while grabbing 7.5 rebounds and dishing out 5.5 assists per game. Jefferson registered three double-doubles to help Utah to a 3-0 week, as the Jazz competes for a playoff spot.
Stats & Stuff:
- This season, Indiana has held an opponent to less than 30 points in the paint 10 times, including three of the last nine games. On the offensive end, the Pacers have scored at least 40 points in the paint 36 times, including five of the last seven games; and have posted a record of 24-12 in such games.
- Should Memphis close out the 2011-12 regular season with two more victories at FedExForum, the Grizzlies would tie the franchise-record 11-game home winning streak that was set from Dec. 18, 2009-Jan. 25, 2010. Memphis’ current nine-game home winning streak is the second-longest in team history … Mike Conley needs three steals in the final two games to pass Shane Battier for second on the Grizzlies’ all-time steals list. Battier recorded 523 steals in 419 games, while Conley enters tonight with 521 thefts in 356 games with Memphis. Rudy Gay passed Battier for the top spot on the chart on Feb. 2 at Atlanta.
- Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala has made three three-pointers in each of the past four games after not doing so in more than two consecutive games prior in his career. Iguodala is shooting a career-high .394 from beyond the arc this season