Donovan Mitchell Breaks Cavaliers’ Franchise Record With 71 Points vs. Bulls – How Does His Performance Rank Among the All-Time Single-Game Scoring Leaders?

Donovan Mitchell Breaks Cavaliers’ Franchise Record With 71 Points vs. Bulls – How Does His Performance Rank Among the All-Time Single-Game Scoring Leaders?

On January 2nd, Donovan Mitchell proved he’s in a league of his own when he scored 71 points in a 145-134 overtime victory vs. the Chicago Bulls. In doing so, he became the seventh player in NBA history to score at least 70 points in a single game – writing his name alongside some of the all-time greats.

Mitchell scoring 71 points is incredible in its own right, but it’s how he achieved it that makes his night that much more special. I mean, we’re talking about a player that had just 5 points at the end of the opening quarter and just 16 points at the end of the first half. Not only that, but the Cavaliers were down 65-47. 

That’s when Mitchell took matters into his own hands. He scored 24 points in the third quarter, bringing the Cavs’ deficit down to 5 points, and another 18 points in the fourth quarter, including the tying basket that sent the game into OT with 3 seconds left. In OT, he scored 13 points – willing his team to victory. 

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Donovan Mitchell Joins the All-Time Single-Game Scoring Leaderboard

Donovan Mitchell Breaks Cavaliers’ Franchise Record With 71 Points vs. Bulls – How Does His Performance Rank Among the All-Time Single-Game Scoring Leaders?
via Instagram (@spidadmitchell)

Donovan Mitchell finished his spectacular performance with 71 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists, and 1 block – he shot 22 of 34 (65%) from the field, 7 of 15 (47%) from long range, and 20 of 25 (80%) from the free throw line. He was just two rebounds away from a 71-point triple-double. It was a night he’ll never forget. 

The four other Cavs’ starters combined for 47 points and Mitchell was just four points away from having exactly half of his team’s total points – an incredible stat any night, but especially on a night where your team scores 145 points. He now holds the Cavaliers’ franchise record for most points in a single game.

With his 71-point performance, there are now only three players in NBA history to ever score more points than Donovan Mitchell. He’s currently in a three-way tie for 8th place on the NBA’s all-time single-game scoring leaderboard – a leaderboard that we’re going to take a closer look at below. Let’s get started!

15. Pete Maravich (68 points)

Pete Maravich scored 68 points against the New York Knicks on February 25, 1977 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. He shot 26 of 43 from the field and 16 of 19 from the free throw line – this was before the NBA adopted the three-point shot, which began two years later in 1979. 

In addition to his 68 points, Maravich added 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in 43 minutes of play – he was doing a little bit of everything on the court. His New Orleans Jazz would end up winning the game 124-107, in large part due to a second quarter that saw the Jazz outscore the Knicks 34-17. 

14. Wilt Chamberlain (68 points)

Wilt Chamberlain – you’ll see his name a lot on this list – scored 68 points against the Chicago Bulls on December 16, 1967. This was roughly nine years before Pete Maravich had his 68-point game in 1977. Chamberlain shot an efficient 30 of 40 (75%) from the field, but just 8 of 22 (36%) from the charity stripe. 

In addition to his 68 points, Chamberlain miraculously grabbed 34 rebounds and even dished two assists. While he nearly outscored the rest of his teammates (they combined for 75 points), he did out-rebound them 34-30. His Philadelphia Warriors defeated the Bulls 143-123, scoring 83 points in the second half.

13. Michael Jordan (69 points)

Michael Jordan scored 69 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 28, 1990 at the Coliseum at Richfield in Richfield, Ohio. He shot 23 of 37 (62%) from the field, 2 of 6 (33%) from beyond the arc, and 21 of 23 (91%) from the charity stripe. He played 50 minutes in a game that ended up going into overtime. 

In addition to his 69 points, Jordan filled the stat sheet with 18 rebounds (career-high), 6 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block. He outscored the rest of his teammates 69-48, with the four other Bulls’ starters combining for just 34 points – talk about putting the team on your back. The Bulls beat the Cavs 117-113 in overtime.

12. Devin Booker (70 points)

Devin Booker scored 70 points against the Boston Celtics on March 24, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. He shot 21 of 40 (52%) from the field, 4 of 11 (36%) from beyond the arc, and 24 of 26 (92%) from the free throw line. He scored 23 points in the third quarter and 28 points in the fourth.

In addition to his 70 points, Booker had 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block – his team was a -6 with him on the court. The rest of his team only scored 50 points (half of which came from the other four starters) and his Phoenix Suns went on to lose 120-130 – despite Booker’s 51 points in the second half.

11. Wilt Chamberlain (70 points)

Wilt Chamberlain – making his second appearance on this list – scored 70 points against the Syracuse Nationals on March 10, 1963. Chamberlain shot 27 of 38 (71%) from the field and 16 of 22 (73%) from the charity stripe – an improvement from his 36% free throw shooting from his 68-point game in 1967. 

In addition to his 70 points, Chamberlain grabbed 18 points and dished 3 assists in 48 minutes of play. He nearly outscored the rest of his teammates (who put up a combined 78 points) and grabbed 1/3rd of his team’s rebounds. Unfortunately, his San Francisco Warriors ended up losing 163-148 to the Nationals. 

10. Donovan Mitchell (71 points)

That brings us to the man of the hour, Donovan Mitchell. He scored an impressive 71 points against the Chicago Bulls on January 2, 2023 – perhaps this was payback for Michael Jordan scoring 69 points on the Cavs in 1990. This is Mitchell’s first season with the Cavs and has already captured the city’s heart. 

In addition to his 71 points, Mitchell had 8 rebounds, 11 assists, and 1 block in the 145-134 overtime victory. His Cavs outscored the Bulls 15-4 in the OT period, with 13 of those points coming from the man himself – Donovan Mitchell. He finished the OT period 4 of 4 from the field and 3 of 3 from behind the arc.

9. David Robinson (71 points)

David Robinson scored 71 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 24, 1994 as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. He shot 26 of 41 (63%) from the field, 1 of 2 (50%) from beyond the three-point line, and 18 of 25 (72%) from the charity stripe in 44 minutes played – he only had four minutes of rest. 

In addition to his 71 points, Robinson grabbed 14 rebounds, dished 5 assists, and recorded 2 blocks in the Spurs’ 112-97 victory. He outscored his teammates 71-41 and was the only player on his team to score in double digits. In fact, he might’ve lost if they didn’t outscore the Bulls 43-30 in the fourth quarter. 

8. Elgin Baylor (71 points)

Elgin Baylor scored 71 points against the New York Knicks on November 15, 1960 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. He shot 28 of 48 (58%) from the field and 15 of 19 (79%) from the free throw line in 45 minutes played – he only sat down for three minutes, as his coach had no reason to take him out. 

In addition to his 71 points, Baylor grabbed 25 rebounds and dished 1 assist. He outscored his teammates 71-52 and grabbed nearly 40% of his team’s rebounds – the rest of his teammates combined for 38 rebounds. His Lakers went on to win the game 123-108, largely thanks to a dominant third quarter.

7. Wilt Chamberlain (72 points)

Wilt Chamberlain – making his third appearance on this list – scored 72 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on November 3, 1962. It came just four months before his 70-point outing in 1963. He shot 29 of 48 (60%) from the field and 14 of 18 (78%) from the charity stripe in 48 minutes played – the whole game.

In addition to his 72 points, Chamberlain had 18 rebounds and 1 assist. He outscored his teammates 72-43 and grabbed nearly 38% of his team’s rebounds. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to lead his team to victory as they lost 127-115 to the Lakers – Jerry West and Elgin Baylor combined for 79 points. 

6. David Thompson (73 points)

David Thompson scored 73 points against the Detroit Pistons on April 9, 1978 as a member of the Denver Nuggets. He shot 28 of 38 (74%) from the field and 17 of 20 (85%) from the free throw line in 43 minutes played – he only sat down for five minutes the entire game. He outscored his teammates 73-64.

In addition to his 73 points, Thompson finished with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block. Only two other players on his team scored in double digits – Dan Issel and Anthony Roberts combined for 26 points. Unfortunately, his Nuggets lost 137-139 to the Pistons, who were only playing with eight total players. 

5. Wilt Chamberlain (73 points)

Wilt Chamberlain – making his fourth appearance on this list – scored 73 points against the Chicago Packers on January 13, 1962. He shot 29 of 48 (60%) from the field and 15 of 25 (60%) from the charity stripe. He faced some resistance from Walt Bellamy and Ralph Davis, who combined for 64 points. 

In addition to his 73 points, Chamberlain grabbed an impressive 36 rebounds – nearly half of his team’s total, with his teammates combining for 37 rebounds. His Philadelphia Warriors scored at least 30 points in all four quarters, while only allowing 30+ points in one quarter. They ended up winning 135-117. 

4. Wilt Chamberlain (73 points)

Wilt Chamberlain – making his fifth appearance on this list – scored 73 points against the New York Knicks on November 16, 1962. It came just 10 months after his 73-point outing against the Packers. He shot 29 of 43 (67%) from the field and 15 of 19 (79%) from the charity stripe in 48 minutes played. 

In addition to his 73 points, Chamberlain grabbed 14 rebounds (about 33% of his team’s total) and dished 1 assist. He faced some resistance from Richie Guerin and Gene Shue, who combined for 50 points, but it wasn’t enough as Chamberlain’s San Francisco Warriors snagged a 127-111 victory over the Knicks.

3. Wilt Chamberlain (78 points)

Wilt Chamberlain – making his sixth appearance on this list – scored 78 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 8, 1961. It was an instant classic that also featured a masterful 63-point, 31-rebound outing from the Lakers’ Elgin BaylorJerry West also put together an impressive 32-point triple-double.

Chamberlain shot 31 of 62 (50%) from the field and 16 of 31 (52%) from the charity stripe – he added 43 rebounds (tied-7th most all-time) and 1 assist. His teammate, Tom Gola, had an interesting stat line of 6 points, 14 rebounds, and 15 assists, but the Warriors ended up losing to the Lakers 151-147 in three OTs.

2. Kobe Bryant (81 points)

Kobe Bryant scored 81 points vs. the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. He shot 28 of 46 (61%) from the field, 7 of 13 (54%) from beyond the arc, and 18 of 20 (90%) from the charity stripe. He nearly doubled the output of the rest of his team, who combined for 41 points.

In addition to his 81 points, Bryant recorded 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. He was 24 points away from outscoring the entire Raptors’ team, who put up 104 points. Bryant put up 26 points in the first half before scorching Toronto with 27 points in the third quarter and 28 points in the fourth quarter.

1. Wilt Chamberlain (100 points)

Wilt Chamberlain – making his seventh appearance on this list – scored 100 points against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962. It was his sixth time scoring at least 70 points between December 8, 1961 and March 10, 1963 and it came just three months after his masterful 78-point outing against the Lakers. 

Chamberlain shot 36 of 63 (57%) from the field and 28 of 32 (88%) from the charity stripe – adding 25 rebounds and 2 assists in the breakout performance. He played in all 48 minutes and helped lead his team to a 169-147 victory over the Knicks – despite three of their players scoring more than 30 points. 

Will Anyone Match Donovan Mitchell This Season? 

It has been nearly 17 years since we’ve seen a player put on as dominant of a performance as Donovan Mitchell – dating back to Kobe Bryant and his 81 points in 2006. And while it’s easy to think something like that won’t ever happen again, the NBA players of today are poised to make it much more common

Just look at the league today. We’re roughly halfway through the season at this point – January 9th – and we’ve already seen 91 40-point outings, 14 50-point outings, one 60-point outing, and one 70-point outing. Five players are averaging 30+ points per game and 17 other players have 25+ points per game. 

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Compared to a season ago, we saw just 119 40-point outings, 19 50-point outings, two 60-point outings, and two players with 30+ points per game – keep in mind, that’s across the entire 82-game season. My point is NBA players are scoring at a rapid rate this season, so another 70-point outing isn’t out of reach.

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