I’ve never seen an NBA team play a better quarter.
The Pacers scored 54 points in the third tonight. They made 20 of the 21 shots they took — the lone miss coming on a Josh McRoberts three-point attempt with just four seconds left in the period. In the process, Mike Dunleavy turned the game into his own personal Dante’s Inferno, scorching the earth to the tune of 24 points in the quarter. He didn’t miss from the field and hit all 5 threes he took, even falling down after the release on one occasion as he ball tickled the twine and Roy Hibbert lost his damn mind on the bench.
It was about as close to perfect as an offense can be. Pacers color commentator Quinn Bucker summed it up suburbly: “That’s as good of a shooting exhibition as you’re going to see in basketball — ever … It was a sight to see.”
Getting into that “ever” question, this onslaught was tied for the fourth-best scoring quarter in NBA history, according to Henry Abbott of TrueHoop. Top honors go to the Buffalo Braves for racking up 58 points in the fourth quarter of an early-season game on October 20, 1972 — and somehow still losing to the mighty, Dave Cowens-led Celtics by 8 points. (That Dr. Jack Ramsey-coached Braves squad also notably finished a lowly 21-61. Ouch.) The pre-Tim Hardaway Warriors dropped 57 in the third against the Sacramento Kings on March 4, 1989, on the strength of a 47-point game from the always-underrated Mitch Richmond and a 34-point outburst from Chris Mullin. Just two seasons later, the Phoenix Suns matched that feat with a 57-point quarter of their own in the second on November 10, 1990, against these very same Denver Nuggets — something that was all the more impressive considering the Suns opened that game by piling up 50 points in the first period.
That’s right Nuggets fans, your team once gave up 107 points in a half — an NBA record for defensive futility over 24 minutes. By comparison, this doesn’t even look all that bad.
So … there’s that.
For those who prefer to get their context from graphics instead of history, just look at the top of the post. That is Indiana’s shot charts for the third quarter. As someone (I forget who … sorry) said during tonight’s ESPN’s Daily Dime Live chat, it looks like someone spilled a bag of marbles Indiana’s side. Glorious, blue, victory marbles. (Dunleavy’s shot chart is pretty stellar as well, particularly when contrasted with that of JR Smith, who also had to go muck up the pretty Pacers side of the image by missing a 60-foot heave at the buzzer. Classic JR.)
Or … For those of you more into photojournalism, take a look at these pictures. That was essentially what happened to the Nuggets for 12 minutes on November 9, 2010.
The Pacers went grizzly.
Here’s the full Indiana play-by-play from ESPN for what will almost certainly forever be the best quarter in franchise history.