If it feels like there's been a scoring influx across the NBA, that's because there has been. It's become commonplace for guys to get to 25 points or more on a nightly basis, even 30 points isn't an eyebrow-raising event anymore. It feels like almost nightly we see some of these insane scoring records reached that used to only be synonymous with Wilt Chamberlain. What's even crazier, is if a guy scores 40 points on one night, it'll likely be outdone the next day, or even later on in the same night.
Over the course of this season there have been 17 instances of a player scoring 50+ points, and the seven games of at least 55 points is an NBA record for a single season. We haven't even gotten to the All-Star break, so the chances of that number going up are all but guaranteed.
It's been an unprecedented season for individual offensive performances, so it only makes sense to take a look back at some of these historic games and rank the 10 best so far.
10. Joel Embiid vs. Hornets, Dec. 11
Stat line: 53 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 62 FG%
The formula was simple in this matchup for the 76ers: give the ball to Embiid and let him demoralize Mason Plumlee. This was just a feat of pure dominance by Embiid against a Hornets squad that was clearly inferior in every way. Charlotte doesn't have the size or strength to contend with the big man down low, and as a result, Embiid just had his away every trip down the floor. But it wasn't just Embiid's post scoring that gave the Hornets nightmares, he showed off his range by knocking down two triples as well. The crazy thing is, this isn't even Embiid's most impressive scoring performance this season, but more on that below.
9. Klay Thompson vs. Hawks, Jan. 2
Stat line: 54 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 53 FG%, 47 3P%
Thompson has perhaps one of the best stat lines in NBA history, you know the one where he scored 60 points while dribbling the ball all of 11 times back in 2016. It's still absurd, and while this performance doesn't stack up to the level of that one, it showed that even after seven years, a torn ACL and a ruptured Achilles that Thompson is still that guy.
The Warriors star knocked down 10 3-pointers in that game, which marked the seventh time in his career that he's done that. He's second to only Stephen Curry in league history for most games with 10 or more 3s. Thompson's 14 3-pointers in a 2018 game against the Bulls is also still the NBA record for most in a single game.
8. Devin Booker vs. Pelicans, Dec. 17
Stat line: 58 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 60 FG%, 50 3P%
Booker's 58 points against New Orleans was a classic case of revenge. If you rewind just a week prior to Booker's offensive explosion, you'll see that the Pelicans beat the Suns in back-to-back games. In that first Suns loss, Zion Williamson threw down a nasty 360 windmill dunk with the clock winding down, something Suns players didn't appreciate. Booker also only finished with 14 points in that contest. In the second game, Booker sat out and watched his team get beat again by the Pelicans.
With the table set for another thrilling matchup between these two teams, Booker served up a big ol' slice of humble pie to the Pelicans. Booker shot 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep, but he could've finished that game with 60+ points had he not gone 10 of 15 from the free-throw line.
7. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Wizards, Jan. 3
Stat line: 55 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 60 FG%
The 55 points Antetokounmpo put up against the Wizards was impressive in and of itself, but the fact that it came on the tail end of a three-game stretch where he put up 40+ points in the two games prior makes it otherworldly. That 40-point streak, coupled with totaling at least 10 rebounds in each of them made Giannis just the third player since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976-77 to have three consecutive 40-10 games.
We've grown accustomed to seeing Antetokounmpo dismantle defenses with his huge strides when getting downhill, and that night against the Wizards was no different. Giannis went 18-of-24 in the restricted area, bullying Washington's big men and making everything look easy.
6. Devin Booker vs. Bulls, Nov. 30
Stat line: 51 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 80 FG%, 85 3P%
Booker's 58 points against the Pelicans was a good revenge play, but his performance against the Bulls even surpasses that. In just three quarters Booker put up 51 points on 20-of-25 shooting from the field. That efficiency, while also racking up 50+ points, has only happened eight other times in NBA history. He joined the likes of Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Kyrie Irving and Antetokounmpo among others as the only players to accomplish that feat.
But what makes Booker's performance more impressive than anyone else on that historic list is the fact that he needed just 31 minutes to accomplish that. If you filter that list down even more, Booker is one of just four players to post a stat line of at least 50 points and five assists, showing that he was doing more than just scoring the ball that night, too.
5. Anthony Davis vs. Wizards, Dec. 4
Stat line: 55 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, 73 FG%
Davis had his best game in a Lakers uniform against the Wizards in which he reminded us all just how dominant of a player he can be when healthy. Davis became the second player in NBA history with a 55-point, 15-rebound, three-block performance, joining Kevin McHale. He also joined a slew of Lakers franchise lists that put him in the company of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James and Wilt Chamberlain, just to name a few.
Davis' performance against Washington highlighted a dominant stretch of games earlier in the season right before he went down with another injury. It also proved that when he and James are both healthy the Lakers are just a completely different team.
4. Joel Embiid vs. Jazz, Nov. 13
Stat line: 59 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 7 blocks, 67 FG%
Embiid's already appeared on this list once before, but this performance heavily outweighs that one. During a tightly contested game against the Jazz, Embiid put together the kind of masterpiece typically reserved for museums or concert halls. He became the first player in NBA history to put up at least 50 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five blocks in a game, a shocking fact given Chamberlain is always atop lists like that.
The rareness of Embiid's stat line speaks to his dominance. In fact, Embiid was the only Sixers player to score more than a single point in the fourth quarter of that game, scoring 26 of his 59 points in the final frame of action. If that sounds absurd, that's because it is. Embiid's 26 points in the final 12 minutes is the eighth-highest scoring total in the fourth quarter in league history.
3. Damian Lillard vs. Jazz, Jan. 25
Stat line: 60 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 72.4 FG%, 60 3P%
Lillard joined some elite company with this masterpiece of a performance. After dropping 60 points on the Jazz, the Blazers star tied Michael Jordan and James Harden for the third post 60-point games in NBA history with four. He's now just two behind Kobe Bryant, who has six, but it'll take awhile for him or anyone else to ever catch up to Wilt Chamberlain who racked up 32 60-point games. Lillard even said himself after the game that "we ain't catching Wilt," and he's not wrong.
The efficiency in which Lillard got to 60 points is what's most impressive about his performance. Lillard's one of just four players to rack up 60 points and shoot over 70 percent from the floor, joining David Thompson, Karl Malone and Chamberlain who did it four times. Filter that list down even more, he's the only one to do it while shooting 3s. To top it all off, Last night's scoring frenzy, in which Lillard connected on nine 3-pointers, moved him ahead of Vince Carter for sixth all-time on the NBA's 3-pointers made list.
2. Donovan Mitchell vs. Bulls, Jan. 2
Stat line: 71 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 64 FG%, 78 3P%
Mitchell is the owner of the highest scoring total of the season, and his 71 points are also the highest point total since Kobe Bryant racked up 81 points in 2006. He's also just the seventh player in league history to cross the 70-point threshold. This wasn't just a stat-padding performance, the Cavaliers needed every bucket Mitchell scored to come back from a 21-point deficit and hold off the Bulls in overtime.
What was perhaps the most impressive bucket of Mitchell's performance came off an intentionally missed free throw, in which he grabbed the offensive rebound and scored the bucket in the closing seconds to send the game into overtime. Mitchell then proceeded to outscore the Bulls 13-4 in overtime to seal the win for the Cavaliers.
1. Luka Doncic vs. Knicks, Dec. 27
Stat line: 60 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 67 FG%
There were several really outstanding performances on this list, and I went back and forth between this and Mitchell's 71-point performance for the No. 1 spot. But as impressive as Mitchell's game was, we've frankly never seen anything like Doncic's 60-point, 21-rebound, 10-assist night against the Knicks. Those are video game numbers.
Here are some numbers just to prove how ridiculous of a stat line that is:
- First 60-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist game in NBA history
- Second 60-point triple-double all-time (James Harden, 60-11-10)
- First 60-point, 20-rebound game since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000
Doncic's done something no one in the history of the NBA has ever done, not even Chamberlain whose numbers often feel like a clerical error more than a realistic stat line. What's even wilder is this came two days after a 50-point outburst from Doncic, and also came two days before a 51-point night from the All-Star guard. Doncic's performance has been the cherry on top of what's already been a wild season for scoring, but there's still plenty of games left for another player to top it.