Breaking down the NBA’s historic surge of 50-point performances this season
The NBA experienced a notable explosion in scoring throughout the 2022-23 regular season, particularly among the league’s stars.
The NBA saw 15 different players combine for 25 50-point games this season, the most in a single regular season since the early 1960s. The culprits for these scoring fireworks were the usual suspects, as former MVPs Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo along with other superstars such as Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum and Anthony Davis etched their names into this year’s 50-point club.
And the 50-point club also welcomes postseason membership, as Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler scored 56 points in Monday’s Game 4 first-round playoff win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Here’s a look at every player who scored at least 50 points in a game this 2022-23 full season and the conditions behind their special nights:
Jimmy Butler, 56 points, April 24, 2023
Jimmy Butler lived up to his nickname “Playoff Jimmy” with an emphatic performance in Game 4 of the Miami Heat’s first round series against the No. 1-seeded Milwaukee Bucks on Monday. Butler poured in a career high 56 points, the most in a playoff game in Heat history and tied for the 4th-most in a playoff game in NBA postseason history, to rally his team from down 12 in the fourth quarter.
Joel Embiid, 52 points, April 4, 2023
Joel Embiid made a compelling argument for MVP with a 52-point performance in a 103-11 win against the Boston Celtics. Embiid went 20-for-25 from the field and 12-of-13 from the free throw line. “The MVP race is over,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “The man just scored half our points in an NBA game. I’m biased, but the MVP race is over.”
Jrue Holiday, 51 points, March 29, 2023
Holiday put up a career-high 51 points in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 149-136 win at the Indiana Pacers. Holiday eclipsed his previous best by the end of the third quarter when he reached 45 points. Holiday added eight rebounds and eight assists to complement his scoring explosion, as he took over as Milwaukee’s star player against the Pacers, with Giannis Antetokounmpo seeing a rare second-place finish in scoring for the Bucks with 38 points.
Julius Randle, 57 points, March 20, 2023
Randle put up a career-high 57 points, including 8 3-pointers in the Knicks’ 140-134 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Randle’s 52 points after the third quarter were on pace to eclipse the previous franchise record set by Carmelo Anthony when the former Knicks forward scored 62 points Jan. 24, 2014, against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Stephen Curry, 50 points, March 15, 2023
In his seventh career 50-point game since turning 30 years old, Curry put on a show in a 134-126 loss to the host LA Clippers. Curry hit 8 3-pointers and converted 20 of 28 shots from the field but the Warriors lost their ninth straight road game.
Lillard made 13 3s in Portland’s 131-114 win over Houston. Lillard is the second player to score 71 points this season as Donovan Mitchell hit the scoring mark on Jan. 2.
Antetokounmpo put together his third 50-point performance this month in a nail-biting 106-105 win against the Clippers. The “Greek Freak” went 21 of 39 from the field and pulled down 19 rebounds. He is averaging 33.1 points and 13.7 rebounds to lead his Bucks to a 10-1 record since the start of January.
Luka Doncic, 53 points, Jan. 30, 2023
In his first game back from an ankle injury, Doncic went on a tear in a 111-105 win to overpower the Detroit Pistons. Doncic shot an efficient 17 of 24 from the field, including 14 of 18 free throws. Doncic is the fourth player in the past 50 years with four 50-point games prior to February (Michael Jordan in 1988-1989, Kobe Bryant in 2005-06, James Harden, three times), according to ESPN’s Marc Spears. Luka’s five career 50-point games are more than the rest of the Mavs had in their history combined (4).
Antetokounmpo scored 50 in only 30 minutes as Milwaukee defeated New Orleans 135-110. Antetokounmpo went 20 for 26 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3. It’s the first time Antetokounmpo has had multiple 50-point games in a season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Lillard managed to amass 50 points before the third quarter ended in the Trail Blazers’ 134-124 win over the Utah Jazz. Lillard’s performance featured nine 3-pointers, which catapulted him past Vince Carter into the sixth spot for most 3-pointers made all time. Lillard also owns the five highest scoring performances 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.
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 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.
Antetokounmpo set a career high with his 55-point performance in the 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, which helped the club offset the absence of Stephen Curry. It was an emotional moment for Thompson, as it was the most points he had put up since his return from a torn ACL in the 2019 Finals and an Achilles injury 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 Cavaliers’ 145-134 overtime win against the Chicago Bulls. The scintillating outing set the Cavaliers’ franchise record for most points in a game and the most points scored in any NBA contest since Kobe Bryant’s 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. Mitchell became just the seventh player 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 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 lead the Mavericks past the Houston Rockets in a 112-106 victory. His 50 points were a season-best at the time, and he paired it with 10 assists and 8 rebounds, falling just two boards 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 Knicks. New York limited Siakam to one field goal and nine points in the fourth quarter. 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 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 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 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.”
Davis’ performance in a 130-119 win against the Wizards was one of the finest of his 11-year career. It was the second-most points he has ever scored, and the most he has produced 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 former Knicks star put up 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 Bulls. Booker scored 25 points in the first half and had 26 more in a third quarter that included 10-of-11 shooting. After a contested 3-pointer splashed through the net, “MVP!” chants broke out across Footprint Center. “It felt like a double-sized rim out there,” Booker said. “If I rise up, it’s going in.”
Curry’s 50-point night wasn’t enough for the struggling 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 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 said, “I’ve never seen a more dominating performance, when you combine offense and defense.”