For only a half season, the NBA’s best players have put together some historic performances.
Already we have witnessed three 50-point games this year. We only witnessed two all of last year–Stephen Curry scoring 54 in the Garden and Carmelo Anthony scoring an incredibly difficult 50 in Miami.
It’s no easy feat, but these high scoring outputs are happening less and less frequently. The 62-point game by Carmelo was the first 60-point game in nearly five years, yet it occurred five times in a three-year span between 2004 and 2007.
Of course, scorers like Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady, who scored those 60-point games, aren’t too common. Those four were also among rosters that didn’t exactly scream success, either.
It’s entirely possible for Kevin Durant to go for 60, but it’s not that easy with another scorer by his side. The same goes for Anthony, who spent portions of his career playing alongside shot-chuckers in Iverson and J.R. Smith.
Plus, it’s just rare to have one of those nights. Everything from hitting a bunch of three-pointers while still getting to the free throw line has to happen, as well as there being enough possessions, the score being close enough, and having teammates that are willing to give up the ball for essentially the entire game are necessities.
But this also goes beyond scoring. On top of having heavy scoring outputs, players who quality for the ten best individual games of the year have to be well-rounded, whether they’re grabbing rebounds, facilitating, or doing a little bit of it all.
It wasn’t easy, which is why we also created an honorable mentions list, but we were able to whittle it down to ten.
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10. Chris Bosh vs. the Portland Trail Blazers
37 points: 15-26 overall, 3-3 3PT; 10 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 steals
There have been few times in the Big Three era where LeBron James has sat out in games due to an injury.
And yet, Chris Bosh seems to take advantage of it every time it happens. He scored 33 in a double-overtime win over Atlanta two years ago when both James and Dwyane Wade sat out, and he also hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Spurs last year with both sitting out, as well.
In a contest against Portland earlier this season, Bosh became the primary option with just LeBron out. Bosh took to this game as if it was person. Almost as if people were trying to say LaMarcus Aldridge was the clear-cut best power forward in the league.
Whatever reason it may be, Bosh put together one of his finest games in a Heat uniform. The 37 points he had were the second-most he’s scored with the Heat. Most of those 37 points came by way of midrange looks, where Bosh was automatic throughout the night.
Eleven of Bosh’s points came in the fourth quarter, where as we all know by now Bosh hit an incredible three-pointer over two defenders to give the Heat a one-point lead and the eventual victory.
9. Al Jefferson vs. the Los Angeles Lakers
40 points: 18-32 overall, 4-6 free throws; 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks
With all the talk surrounding the likes of Lance Stephenson and Kyle Lowry missing out on the All-Star Game, there’s been little attention paid towards Al Jefferson.
Jefferson is averaging 19.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in his first year with the Charlotte Bobcats, who are in position to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 because of Jefferson.
He had the best game of his season come in a 40-point outing in a ten-point win on the road in Los Angeles. Equipped with arguably the best post game and best feet for a big man in the league, Jefferson made light work of the likes of Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre, none of whom are exactly noted for defense.
Even more impressive was Jefferson scoring 16 of those 40 in the fourth quarter to stave off any Laker comeback. Eight of those 16 came between the 4:42 and 1:24 marks of the final frame.
8. Stephen Curry vs. the Utah Jazz
44 points: 14-26 overall, 8-13 from three, 8-9 free throws; 4 assists, 2 rebounds
On a night dedicated to Jerry Sloan and his 1,223 coaching victories, Stephen Curry stole the spotlight in a game where his season-high was necessary to overcome a poor shooting night by the rest of his team.
As if the Warriors weren’t dependent enough on Curry, Steph had to score 13 points to flip a five-point deficit going into the fourth into a five-point win. Thirty of his 44 points came in the second, with 13 points in a fourth quarter where he also hit three crucial three-pointers.
How important was Curry’s 44? Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala combined to shoot 6-for-41 this game.
7. Kevin Love vs. the San Antonio Spurs
42 points: 15-27 overall, 8-9 from three, 4-4 free throws; 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
In case you wonder why Kevin Love ends up on another team besides the Timberwolves, cite games such as this one against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Wolves were up by nine points going into the fourth quarter, where Love scored seven of his 42 points on the night, yet still managed to lose by seven points in a game where they wasted Kevin’s best shooting performance of his career.
Love made all but one of his nine three-point attempts on the night, including five in a 19-point third quarter. Unfortunately, he didn’t attempt any three-pointers in the final five minutes of a close game. In fact, he only attempted one shot in that span and that didn’t occur until the Wolves were already down by seven with ten seconds left.
I don’t agree with keeping the ball away from someone with 42 points and eight three-pointers, but I’m not an NBA head coach.
6. Kevin Durant vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves
48 points: 16-32 overall, 4-9 from three, 12-13 free throws; 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
It could be said that this was the game that started it all; the first of five 40-point games Kevin Durant would have in the month of January.
The current MVP frontrunner recently put together a month’s worth of games that rival such dominant stretches as LeBron’s February ’13 or Kobe Bryant‘s March ’07. In what would be the start of an incredible month, Durant put together what was then his best game of the year when he scored 48 and led the Thunder to a victory, despite a 10-point deficit heading into the final frame. Durant scored 23 of Oklahoma City’s 38 points in the quarter, two coming off the stepback game-winner over Dante Cunningham that gave the Thunder a two-point lead with four seconds left.
5. Terrence Ross vs the Los Angeles Clippers
51 points: 16-29 overall, 10-17 from three, 9-10 free throws; 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
In the unlikeliest instance of the ten best individual games of the year, Toronto Raptors’ swingman Terrence Ross went off for the game of his life in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Ross, who hasn’t scored more than 24 points in any other game this year, scored at least 13 points in the first, third and fourth quarters, and scored 28 of his 51 in the second half. Surprisingly, he scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, but failed to score a single field goal over the final 8:10 of the game. By that point already, though, he had hit two more three-pointers to finish with a league-high ten three-pointers on the night.
It goes to show how great the league’s players are. Even role players like Terrence Ross, who has since gone on to have a five-point outing against Utah and a 3-for-12 outing against Portland, is capable of putting together games such as this. Any player with a jumper is capable of having a big night. Ross, however, put together one of the greatest role player nights of all time.
4. Kevin Love vs. the Los Angeles Clippers
45 points: 15-23 overall, 2-6 from three, 13-15 free throws; 19 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal
Kevin Love has gone for at least 40 points three times this season. The result? An 0-3 record. Love’s four highest-scoring games of the season have all been losses by seven points or less.
One of those losses, where Love scored a season-high 45 points, came by four points to the Clippers, a game in which the Wolves were outscored 8-2 over the final 39 seconds. It’s been the recurring problem all year for Minnesota to lose games in the final moments by wire-thin margins. It’s led to a .500 record and a three-and-a-half game deficit of the eighth seed out West.
Love was a perfect 7-of-7 around the rim and 13-of-16 from within 15 feet. He was the top dog in a frontcourt battle that also featured Blake Griffin going for 32 and 10 and Nikola Pekovic scoring 34 of his own.
3. Chris Paul vs. the Golden State Warriors
42 points: 12-20 overall, 2-6 from three, 16-17 free throws; 15 assists, 6 steals, 2 rebounds
After looking up Chris Paul’s game log, it reminded me of how much I miss Chris Paul playing basketball.
It took until his second game of the season for Chris Paul to make his case for not only the title of the league’s best point guard, but for a potential first MVP, as well. Although that idea is now eradicated due to injuries and with the way Kevin Durant has played, he was certainly a frontrunner for a few days after this performance against the Warriors.
This game was indicative of everything Chris Paul does the right way: 42 points off an array of midrange jumpers and crafty drives to the rim, 15 assists off elite playmaking that rivals the work of John Stockton and Magic Johnson, and six steals off quick hands and the rare ability to read passing lanes.
It culminated in a nine-point win that featured Chris Paul scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter, as well as outscoring Stephen Curry in a duel where the Warriors guard scored 38 points, but was also forced into 11 turnovers.
2. Kevin Durant vs. the Golden State Warriors
54 points: 19-28 overall, 5-9 from three, 11-13 free throws; 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Hard to believe this is the only time Kevin Durant has scored 50 points. With all the grooves he’s gotten into over the past month, you’d have expected him to have more stat lines like the one he had against Golden State in mid-January. Then again, it’s not exactly the easiest feat to score 54 on only 28 shots.
He scored 15 points in a fourth quarter, but it felt double that amount after watching him splash home 11 points in less than two minutes. He single-handedly turned a modest nine-point lead into an insurmountable 17 points after four shots.
Durant scored at least ten points in every quarter and still managed to tie with Reggie Jackson for the team-high in assists.
He’s only 25 years old and with the way he’s been playing, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see Durant drop another 50-point game by the end of the year.
1. Carmelo Anthony vs. the Charlotte Bobcats
62 points: 23-35 overall, 6-11 from three, 10-10 free throws; 13 rebounds
We always knew Carmelo Anthony was capable of a game like this. In fact, we’ve seen him in zones like this before, just with a lower amount of shots. Recall his outings as a member of Team USA when they played Nigeria, or his 50-point against the Heat last year when he hit nothing but jumpers.
The scariest part of his 62-point outing against Charlotte was the fact that he shot 1-of-6 from right of center beyond the arc. From every other area, he was 5-of-5, with one of the threes coming off a midcourt buzzer-beater to conclude a 37-point first half. He also only played 39 minutes due to the beating they were putting on their opponent. He exited the game for the last time at the 7:18 mark of the fourth in a game they were winning by 37, eventually leading to a 31-point victory.
It was the first 60-point game since Kobe Bryant scored 61 on February 2 of 2009 in the same building.
Anthony Davis vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers
30 points: 12-18 overall, 6-7 free throws; 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 8 blocks, 1 steal
LeBron James vs. the New York Knicks
30 points: 13-22 overall, 1-3 from three, 3-6 free throws; 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals
Michael Carter-Williams vs. the Miami Heat
22 points: 6-10 overall, 4-6 from three, 6-8 free throws; 12 assists, 9 steals, 7 rebounds
Chris Paul vs. the Washington Wizards
38 points: 11-14 overall, 5-7 from three, 11-11 free throws; 12 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
LaMarcus Aldridge vs. the Denver Nuggets
44 points: 15-29 overall, 14-17 free throws; 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks
What do you think?
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