Breaking down the NBA’s historic surge of 50-point performances this season

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NBA scoring has seen a notable explosion so far this season, particularly among the league’s stars.

Already, 17 players have scored 50 points or more this season, which is the most the league has seen through the month of January since 1963, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

The NBA could be on pace for a historic number of 50-point performances by season’s end if this trend keeps up. There have now been 17 50-point games out of 729 games played this season (42.88 games per 50-Pt game). By the end of the season, it would be the highest rate of 50-point games since the 1965-66 season when it was one out of every 40 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

But with plenty of season left, there will be opportunities for other players, whether they be high-profile stars like LeBron James or even a lesser-known underdog, to take advantage of this season’s interesting scoring trend.

Here’s a look at every player who has scored at least 50 points in a game this season and the conditions behind their special nights:

Lillard managed to amass 50 points before the third quarter even ended in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 134-124 win over the Utah Jazz. Lillard’s performance featured nine 3-pointers, which catapulted him over Vince Carter into the sixth spot for most 3-pointers made all time. Lillard also now owns the five highest-scoring performance in Trail Blazers history.


Jayson Tatum, 51 points, Jan. 16, 2023

Tatum garnered his latest roar of MVP chants from the Boston Celtics crowd on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with his 51-point performance, which was capped off with 17 points in the fourth quarter of a 130-118 win against the Charlotte Hornets. It was the fifth 50-point performance of Tatum’s career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.


Damian Lillard, 50 points, Jan. 12, 2023

Lillard did everything he could with the 50 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it wasn’t enough to get his team a win as the Portland Trail Blazers fell to Cleveland 119-113. For Lillard, it was the third time in his career that he scored 50 points or more in a loss, the last occurrence being his 51-point performance in a 129-121 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019.


Giannis Antetokounmpo, 55 points, Jan. 03, 2023

Antetokounmpo set his new career high with his 55-point performance in the Milwaukee Bucks‘ 123-113 win over the Washington Wizards. It wasn’t a one dimensional performance for the former MVP either, as he also added 10 rebounds and seven assists. For Antetokounmpo, it was his third straight game with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.


Thompson was the hero in the Golden State Warriors‘ dramatic 143-141 double-overtime win against the Atlanta Hawks with 54 points, which helped Golden State offset the absence of Stephen Curry at the time. It was an emotional moment for Thompson, as it was the most points he had put up since his return from his long injury absence that started with a torn ACL in the 2019 Finals and an Achilles injury just prior to the start of the 2020-21 season.


Mitchell turned the NBA season on its head with a historic 71-point performance in the Cleveland Cavaliers 145-134 overtime win against the Chicago Bulls. The scintillating performance set the Cavaliers’ franchise record for most points in a single game and was the most points scored in any NBA game since Kobe Bryant’s 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. Mitchell became just the seventh player in NBA history to ever cross that mark, joining Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, David Robinson and Devin Booker.


Luka Doncic, 51 points, Dec. 31, 2022

Doncic’s third 50-point performance helped the Dallas Mavericks earn their sixth straight win in a 126-125 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on New Year’s Eve. Doncic closed out the game with two rebounds and two free-throws in the final 4.5 seconds to secure a clutch win over a Spurs team that was looking to break the Mavericks’ hot streak.


Luka Doncic, 60 points, Dec. 27, 2022

Doncic made NBA history when he scored 60 points in a come-from-behind 126-121 overtime win over the New York Knicks. His career-best 60 points was actually only one piece of the puzzle, as he also grabbed 21 rebounds and dished out 10 assists to become the first player in NBA history to record 60 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a game.


Luka Doncic, 50 points, Dec. 23, 2022

Doncic kicked off his scorching hot holiday week with a 50-point performance to help lead the Mavericks past the Houston Rockets in a 112-106 victory. His 50 points was a season-best at the time, and he paired it with 10 assists and 8 rebounds, falling just two rebounds shy of another triple-double. “Sometimes you know you’re going to make more shots than usual,” Doncic told reporters after the game. “When you feel hot, you feel like everything will go in.”


Siakam had 34 points total in the second and third quarters, including Toronto’s final 17 points over a seven-minute span in the third in a 113-106 win over the New York Knicks. New York limited Siakam to one field goal in the fourth quarter and held him to nine points in the period. Siakam’s 52 points — tied for the second most in a game in Raptors history — was the most by an opposing player at Madison Square Garden since James Harden had 61 in 2019.


Devin Booker, 58 points, Dec. 17, 2022

Booker scored 25 consecutive points for the Suns starting from the 3:30 mark of the third quarter to the 7:43 mark of the fourth quarter in a 118-114 comeback victory against the New Orleans Pelicans. “The only person that could’ve stopped him tonight was me by taking him out the game,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. Booker’s 58 points were the third most in his career, and his most ever in a victory. It was the fifth 50-point game of Booker’s career, and at 26 years, 48 days old, he became the youngest player to record five 50-point games in his career since Kobe Bryant, who had his fifth at 24 years, 217 days.


Joel Embiid, 53 points, Dec. 11, 2022

Embiid was serenaded with MVP chants during the 131-113 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Embiid became the third player in Sixers history to have multiple 50-point games in the same season, joining Allen Iverson (2000-01 and 2004-05) and Wilt Chamberlain (1965-66 and 1967-68). It is also the 30th game in Embiid’s career with 40 points and 10 rebounds. The only other player in franchise history to accomplish that feat was Chamberlain. “The ball just found me,” Embiid said. “I thought we moved the ball well all night and the ball just found me.”


Anthony Davis, 55 points, Dec. 4, 2022

Davis’ performance in a 130-119 win against the Washington Wizards was one of the finest of the 11-year veteran’s career. It was the second-most points he has ever scored, and the most he has had in a Lakers uniform as he joined Shaquille O’Neal as the only Lakers with back-to-back games with 40-plus points and 10-plus rebounds. It had been three decades since any player in the NBA put up a stat line of 50 or more points, 15 or more rebounds and three or more blocks while connecting on at least 70% of his shot attempts, as Davis (73% from the field) mirrored Patrick Ewing’s 50 points on 71% shooting, 15 rebounds and three blocks that the New York Knicks star put up back on Dec. 1, 1990.


Devin Booker, 51 points, Nov. 30, 2022

Booker scored a season-high 51 points in just three quarters in a 132-113 win against the Chicago Bulls. Booker scored 25 points in the first half and had 26 more in a sublime third quarter that included 10 of 11 shooting. After a contested 3-pointer splashed through the net, “MVP! MVP!” chants broke out across Footprint Center, and the 26-year-old is certainly making an early season case. “It felt like a double-sized rim out there,” Booker said. “If I rise up, it’s going in.”


Stephen Curry, 50 points, Nov. 16, 2022

Curry’s 50-point night wasn’t enough for the struggling Golden State Warriors to beat the Suns. All five Suns starters scored in double figures in the 130-119 win. The eight-time All-Star made 17 of 28 shots, going 7 of 11 from 3-point range. Curry was at his best in the first half, making 10 of 13 shots from the field, including 4 of 5 3-pointers. The two-time MVP came into the game averaging about 31 points per game and hit that mark with a free throw near the end of the second quarter.


Garland poured in a career-high 51 points — 27 of them in the fourth quarter — and made a career-best 10 3-pointers in a 129-124 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Cleveland played without injured All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen. Garland’s point total was briefly the highest in the NBA this season, but roughly one hour later, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid scored 59 in a win over Utah.


Joel Embiid, 59 points, Nov. 13, 2022

After scoring 41 points against the Atlanta Hawks the night before, the 76ers big man scored his career high against the Utah Jazz along with 11 rebounds, 8 assists and 7 blocks in lieu of a 105-98 victory. Embiid virtually carried Philadelphia to the win by scoring 26 of the team’s 27 points in the fourth quarter, along with registering five of his seven blocked shots in the final period. He became the first player to outscore both teams by himself in a fourth quarter (26-21) since Tracy McGrady in 2006. Coach Doc Rivers declared, “I’ve never seen a more dominating performance, when you combine offense and defense.”



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