Some nights that basket just seems as big as the ocean and it looks as easy as dropping the ball in from the beach. Other times, it’s just about sheer power from the big guys who have their way on the inside.
Last season produced some of each to make up this look at the top individual shooting performances of 2013-14. To be eligible for this list, players needed to shoot at least 90 percent from the field on at least 11 field goal attempts:
8. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Dec. 28, 2013 vs. New Orleans Pelicans — 24 points, 10-for-11 FG (90.9 percent), 18 rebounds
For the first couple of months last season, Howard was trying to prove that he was over his back problems while re-establishing himself as the premier center in the game. This was another statement with an overpowering low-post game that produced six dunks, three little jump hooks and a layup in a 107-98 victory. He seemed intent on showing his physicality and committed a handful of offensive fouls to pile up eight turnovers.
7. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
February 21, 2014 vs. Atlanta Hawks — 22 points, 10-for-11 FG (90.9 percent), 11 rebounds, three steals
If the frontline combination of Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith had played so well from the start, it’s likely coach Mo Cheeks wouldn’t have been fired and Joe Dumars might still be Detroit’s GM. It was the third time in the season that the trio of big men all had double-doubles in the same game. It was a demonstration of sheer power, not a shooting clinic by Drummond. Six of his 10 buckets were dunks and he went 0-for-8 from the free throw line.
6. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
February 1, 2014 vs. Philadelphia 76ers — 22 points, 10-for-11 FG (90.9 percent), 14 rebounds, five blocked shots
The 1-2 punch of Drummond and Monroe simply pummeled the Sixers from the opening tip to the final horn in a 113-96 beating. Between them, the pair made 18-for-21 shots, but it was Drummond who was closest to perfection, missing just once. “This is the game we like to play, not take as many jump shots and pound the ball inside,” he said.
5. Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards
November 27, 2013 at Milwaukee Bucks — 25 points, 11-for-12 FG (91.7 percent), eight rebounds
Performances like this early one eventually helped the Wizards win their first playoff series in a decade and earned the “Polish Hammer” stay in D.C. on a five-year, $60 million contract this summer. The near-perfect big man carried the Wizards home by hitting all three of his shots and scoring six points in a 100-92 OT win.
4. Mike Scott, Atlanta Hawks
April 4, 2014 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — 26 points, 11-for-12 FG (92.3 percent)
Of the eight sharpshooters here, Scott is the only one to crack that list while coming off the bench. The reserve forward needed just 20 minutes in a 117-98 win to exploit a Cavs defense that might as well not have made the trip to Atlanta. For a guy who averaged just 9.6 ppg last season, it was a night to remember — although only his second biggest offensive explosion of the year. He’d dropped 30 on the Knicks six weeks earlier.
3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
April 6, 2014 vs. Memphis Grizzlies — 26 points, 12-for-13 FG (92.3 percent) , 2-for-2 3PT FG, five assists
Two months before he put on the dazzling performance that earned him MVP of The Finals, Leonard gave a preview when he lit up the Grizzlies on the night the Spurs won their 60th game in a 112-92 rout. “Not only did he score 26, most of them were jumpers, contested, off the dribble, threes,” said teammate Manu Ginobili. “He’s our best defender, but he can really score, too.”
2. Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks
March 3, 2014 vs. Utah Jazz — 31 points, 13-for-14 FG (92.9 percent) , 2-for-2 3PT FG, five rebounds
The sharp-shooting big man came up one shy of his career scoring high as the Bucks cruised to their largest margin of victory for the season. Ilyasova mixed up his buckets and even nailed a pair of 3-pointers on a night when the Bucks shot a sizzling 75.7 percent (28-for-37) as a team. Maybe it was the presence of former great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, making an appearance in Milwaukee, that inspired his ex-team.
1. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
January 31, 2014 at Brooklyn Nets — 25 points, 12-for-12 FG (100 percent) , nine rebounds
The living, breathing pogo stick that is Ibaka is always a threat to fill up the box score with dunks and easy buckets. However, it’s those nights when he’s got the mid-range game going that Serge is unstoppable. Our only perfect game on the list — a dream dozen shots — included five sweet jumpers. It was the night that Kevin Durant’s string of consecutive 30-point games ended at 12 and K.D.’s 26 made him the leading scorer in the 120-95 rout of the Nets, with former president Bill Clinton sitting courtside But he missed two shots and that makes him a slacker compared to the flawless Ibaka.