Nene's Perfect Game 4 Performance Was Historic and Necessary
The term “perfect game” comes from baseball and refers to when a pitcher pitches a minimum of nine innings and doesn’t allow a single player on the opposing team to reach base.
This rare achievement of volume coupled with perfection is not really attainable in any other sport, but Nene of the Houston Rockets got about as close as any basketball player can come in Sunday’s Game 4 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 34-year-old Brazilian shot a perfect 12-for-12 from the field on his way to 28 points, while adding 10 rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
In going 12-for-12 from the field, Nene tied Larry McNeil’s record for the most made field goals without a miss in a playoff game, which he set in 1975.
The closest anyone else has come to matching that record in recent history (since 1983-84 when shot attempts officially became a stat) was Serge Ibaka, who went 11-for-11 against the San Antonio Spurs in 2012, back when he was playing for the very Thunder team that Nene demolished at the rim on Sunday.
And that “at the rim” distinction is important -- because all of Nene’s shots came from within five feet of the tin.
Nenê: 12-for-12, ties NBA playoff record for most FG without miss (Larry McNeill 1975 Kings) pic.twitter.com/ue9Dh4LBsk
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 23, 2017
Don’t look at that shot chart and assume that this accomplishment is somehow diminished because of the proximity of the shots, however. According to NBA.com’s player tracking data, 8 of Nene’s 12 shots at the rim were contested.
Also, according to Elias Sports, Nene became only the second player in NBA history to score at least 20 points, grab a minimum of 10 rebounds, and shoot a flawless 100% from the field in a playoff game, joining the great Wilt Chamberlain. The exclusivity of that club and the esteemed company that Nene now keeps should show you just how special this performance was.
His overall impact on the game was huge anyway, regardless of the perfect shooting performance. He single-handedly outscored the Thunder bench 28-22 and outrebounded them 10-9, while finishing with a game-high plus-minus of +24.
In a game when MVP-hopeful James Harden scored only 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting from the field (and 0-for-7 from deep), the Rockets needed this kind of performance to push the Thunder and their MVP candidate Russell Westbrook to the brink.
With that, the Rockets now have a 3-1 series lead over the Thunder, and now our algorithms give them a 93.28% chance of advancing to the next round.
And they probably wouldn’t be in that spot if it hadn’t been for Nene’s perfect game.