NBA players are scoring at a rapid rate this season and it’s resulting in a lot of high-scoring games and a flurry of record-breaking performances. For example, there are currently seven players averaging more than 30 points per game and two others are extremely close at 29.7 points per game – as of February 4.
What’s even more impressive is the number of 40-point performances we’ve seen this season. – as of Feb. 4, there have been 122 instances where a player has put up at least 40 points. For reference, that’s already three more than we saw all of last season and we still have roughly 30 games left to play in 2023.
Not only that, but there have been another 84 instances where a player came within one basket (three points) of a 40-point game. At this rate, there’s a very good chance we see 200 40-point performances by the end of the year – not including the playoffs – as NBA players continue to show out on a nightly basis.
RELATED: Luka Doncic Becomes 2nd Player in NBA History to Score 30 Points in 8 Consecutive Games to Start a Season; Which NBA Players Have More Consecutive 30-Point Games?
You’ll Never Guess What These 5 NBA Players Did on the Same Night!
On December 23rd, just two days before Christmas, fans were gifted a record-breaking night as five NBA players scored at least 43 points on the same day. It’s the first time in league history that five players have scored that much on the same day. To make it even sweeter, all five of those games were nail-biters.
The five players we’re talking about are Luka Doncic (50 points), R.J. Barrett (44 points), Joel Embiid (44 points), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (44 points), and Tyrese Haliburton (43 points). There were also seven other NBA players who scored at least 30 points on that night – two of which were on the same team.
It was certainly a night to remember for anyone who followed along – I know I was and I had my jaw dropped the entire time. And while three of those five NBA players with at least 43 points won their matchup, two of them walked away with a disappointing loss – one of which was lost in overtime.
For those that were busy on this particular day, don’t panic – we’re going to break down all five of those performances below. Let’s get started!
5. Tyrese Haliburton – 43 points
On December 23, Tyrese Haliburton – a point guard for the Indiana Pacers – scored a career-high 43 points against the Miami Heat. It was an extremely efficient performance that saw him shoot 14 of 20 from the floor, 10 of 16 from the three-point line, and a perfect 5 of 5 from the charity stripe. He was electric.
Haliburton didn’t waste any time getting into a groove with 14 points in the first quarter (4 of 5 from long range). He scored just 3 points in the second quarter, but bounced right back with 13 points in the third quarter (3 of 4 from long range) and another 13 points in the fourth quarter (2 of 3 from long range).
He filled out the rest of his stat sheet with 2 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block – doing it all for the Pacers. And it paid off with his Pacers walking away victorious, thanks to a three-point jumper from 28 feet away with 4.0 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter – giving the Pacers a late three-point lead.
The performance comes during a breakout season for Haliburton, who has established himself as one of the most versatile and creative point guards in the league. He showed flashes of it in his first two seasons – he was drafted by the Kings with the 12th overall pick in 2020 – but is putting it on full display this year.
Through 42 games this season, Haliburton is averaging 20.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 10.2 assists, 1.8 steals, and 0.4 blocks in 33.5 minutes per game. He’s shooting 48% from the field, 39% from beyond the three-point line, and 88% from the charity stripe. What’s scary is he’ll only get better from here on out.
As recognition for his stellar play this season, Haliburton will be making his first All-Star appearance as an All-Star Game Reserve – and rightfully so. He’s the league-leader in assists per game, ranks 44th in the NBA in points per game, and ranks 19th in efficiency rating at 25.5 – the leader is Nikola Jokic at 38.1.
4. Joel Embiid – 44 points
On December 23, Joel Embiid – a center for the Philadelphia 76ers – scored 44 points against the Los Angeles Clippers. It was his ninth 40-point game and fifth-highest scoring game of the 2022-23 season. He shot 18 of 30 from the field, 1 of 4 from beyond the three-point line, and 7 of 7 from the charity stripe.
Embiid was put to work right away with 15 points in the first quarter (7 of 9 from field) and scored 8 points in the second quarter (3 of 6 from field) to go into halftime with 23 points. He closed the second half out with 11 points in the third quarter (4 of 9 from field) and 10 points in the fourth quarter (4 of 6 from field).
With that said, scoring wasn’t the only thing on Embiid’s plate – filling out the rest of his stat sheet with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, and just 1 turnover. His 76ers won the game 119-114 thanks to his 10 points in the final 6 minutes of play – including two clutch free throws with 11 seconds left in the game.
Joel Embiid is putting together another MVP-caliber season – though he’ll likely be beat out by Nikola Jokic, yet again. He’s averaging 33.5 points (league-high), 10.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.6 blocks in 34.6 minutes per game (39 games played). He’s shooting a career-high 53% from the field.
In addition to leading the league in points per game, Embiid also ranks 12th in the NBA in rebounds per game, 6th in the NBA in blocks per game, and 2nd in the NBA in efficiency rating – he’s at 35.3, which is 2.8 behind the leader (Jokic). He also has his 76ers in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference at 34-17.
Some of Embiid’s other incredible performances this season include 40 points on Oct. 28, 41 points on Jan. 17, 42 points on Nov. 12, 42 points on Jan. 2, 47 points on Jan. 28, 48 points on Dec. 27 (four days after the performance outlined above), 53 points on Dec. 11, and 59 points on Nov. 13. He’s fun to watch.
3. R.J. Barrett – 44 points
On December 23, R.J. Barrett – a small forward for the New York Knicks – scored 44 points against the Chicago Bulls (he was just 3 points away from setting a new career-high). He shot an efficient 14 of 20 from the field, a perfect 6 of 6 from beyond the three-point line, and 10 of 13 from the charity stripe.
Barrett started the game out with a modest 7 points off 3 of 4 shooting in the first quarter, but put on an absolute show in the second quarter – totaling 19 points off 6 of 9 shooting from the field (3 of 3 from long range). He scored another 8 points in the third quarter and finished with 10 points in the fourth quarter.
He filled out the rest of his stat sheet with 7 rebounds and 4 assists in just over 39 minutes of play, but failed to record a steal or a block – he also had 6 turnovers and 5 fouls, but he more than made up for it. Unfortunately, his efforts didn’t lead to a win, losing 117-118 due to a last-second push by the Bulls.
Barrett is currently in his fourth season in the league after being drafted by the Knicks with the No. 3 overall pick in 2019. His 44 points is currently tied for the most in a single game by a Knicks’ player this year – point guard Jalen Brunson scored 44 points on Jan. 9, but he took 10 more shots than Barrett.
Through 48 games this season, Barrett is averaging 20.2 points (career-high), 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.2 blocks in 34.9 minutes (career-high) per game. He’s shooting 43% from the field, 33% from beyond the three-point line, and 75% from the charity stripe. His future is bright at just 22 years old.
As of February 4, Barrett ranks No. 43 in the league in points per game – Nuggets’ guard Jamal Murray is also averaging 20.2 points per game. In addition to his 44-point performance, Barrett has scored at least 30 points in five other games – three of which coming in the past month. He has been on fire.
2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 44 points
On December 23, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – a shooting guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder – scored a career-high 44 points against the New Orleans Pelicans. He shot 17 of 29 (59%) from the field, 3 of 4 (75%) from the three-point line, and 7 of 9 (78%) from the charity stripe – carrying his team, as usual.
He played every second of the first quarter and came away with 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting. He stayed efficient with 8 points off 4 of 6 shooting in the second quarter and exploded for 14 points (5 of 7 shooting) in the third quarter. He finished the fourth quarter with 5 points, but put up another 7 points in overtime.
Gilgeous-Alexander also had 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in the game – doing a little bit of everything for the Thunder. He led a second-half comeback after being down 64-46 at halftime and had a 6-point lead with just over a minute left in the game, but the Pelicans took over late in the 4th and in OT.
He is now in his fifth season in the NBA and fourth season with the Thunder after being drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the No. 11 overall pick in 2018. He’s one of seven players averaging at least 30 points per game this season, but has played the second-most games this season out of that bunch.
Through 48 games in 2022-23, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 31.0 points (career-high), 4.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.7 steals (career-high), and 1.1 blocks (career-high). He ranks No. 4 in the league in points per game, No. 6 in the league in steals per game, and No. 8 in the league in efficiency rating (30.4).
There have been 31 instances this season where a Thunder player has scored at least 30 points – all of which have come from Gilgeous-Alexander. Here’s another fun fact – Gilgeous-Alexander and R.J. Barrett (from above) became the first two Canadians to score at least 40 points on the same night.
1. Luka Doncic – 50 points
On December 23, Luka Doncic – a point guard for the Dallas Mavericks – led all NBA players with 50 points against the Houston Rockets and it wasn’t even his best performance of the season. He shot 17 of 30 (57%) from the field, 6 of 12 from beyond the arc (50%), and 10 of 12 (83%) from the charity stripe.
Doncic didn’t waste any time finding his shot, scoring 14 points in the first quarter while playing every second, but only had 4 points in 6 minutes in the second quarter. Then the second half began. He scored 15 points in the third thanks to 8 made free throws and 17 points in the fourth with 3 three-pointers.
Not only that, but Doncic came just 2 rebounds away from a triple-double. He rounded out his stat sheet with 8 rebounds, 10 assists, and 3 steals – though he also had 7 turnovers and 3 personal fouls. He did it all, as usual, and helped his team secure a 112-106 win with a three-pointer in the final 20 seconds.
Doncic is currently playing in his fifth season in the NBA after being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks (rights traded to Mavericks) with the No. 3 overall pick in 2018. As of Feb. 4, he ranks 2nd in points per game, 22nd in rebounds per game, 5th in assists per game, 13th in steals per game, and 3rd in efficiency rating.
Through 47 games played in 2022-23, he is averaging 33.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 36.5 minutes per game. He’s shooting a respectable 50% from the field, 35% from beyond the arc, and 73% from the free throw line – not bad, considering he has the ball at all times.
There aren’t many players in the league who can score as much and as consistently as Doncic does. He has scored at least 41 points in 11 different games, including four games of at least 50 points and a 60-point outing on December 27th – just four days after the game outlined above. He’s must-see TV.
Other Instances Where 5 NBA Players Scored at Least 40 Points on the Same Night
The NBA players above made history by becoming the first five players to score at least 43 points on the same day, but we’ve seen similar days like that before. In fact, there have been four other instances where five players scored at least 40 points in the same night. Here’s a quick look at those instances:
- April 10, 2022 – Obi Toppin (42 points), Jalen Green (41 points), Malik Monk (41 points), Klay Thompson (41 points), and Victor Oladipo (40 points)
- February 21, 2003 – Tracy McGrady (52 points), Jamal Mashburn (50 points), Michael Jordan (43 points), Allen Iverson (41 points), and Kobe Bryant (40 points)
- February 2, 2001 – Allen Iverson (47 points), Kobe Bryant (44 points), Chris Webber (41 points), Paul Pierce (40 points), and Jerry Stackhouse (40 points)
- December 25, 1961 – Wilt Chamberlain (59 points), Tom Heinsohn (45 points), Elgin Baylor (40 points), Richie Guerin (40 points), and Oscar Robertson (40 points)
Scoring 40 or more points isn’t easy in the NBA, but it’s becoming much more common in the league today. There have been more than 4,500 40-point performances throughout the history of the NBA and that number will continue to increase in the years ahead – unless defenses can find a way to stop it.
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Unfortunately, I don’t see defenses standing a chance. Not only have we seen 122 40-point performances so far this season, but we’ve also seen 20 50-point games and three 60-point games – one of which was Donovan Mitchell going off for 71 points, the most in a single NBA game since Kobe Bryant’s 81 in 2006.
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